A Dallas record label may have found a cure to the increasing demand for vinyl—while simultaneously putting North Texas music on the map.
A local record label's high-tech vinyl pressing plant is music to the ears of collectors and musicians. (Plus, get in the groove for Record Store Day!)
In an undeniably digital age where media is compressed, streamed and uploaded to YouTube, the outlier is the humble vinyl record, which went from being the industry standard in the ‘60s and ‘70s to a permanent resident of thrift shops and used bookstores. Today, however, the analog medium is more popular (and more profitable) than it’s been in decades. Vinyl sales made more money than advertising from free digital streams in 2015, and Forbes projects that vinyl will be a billion dollar industry by the end of this year, with sales slated to grow by 55 percent through 2020.
“The demand is getting crazier,” said Dustin Blocker, co-founder of local music label Hand Drawn Records and chief creative officer of the label’s new vinyl manufacturing facility, Hand Drawn Pressing—and not just for records. “Needle sales are the highest they’ve ever been since 1974, and turntables were the No. 1 gift item on Amazon last Christmas.” Nevertheless, most records today are made on outdated equipment. But not those pressed by Hand Drawn, which are manufactured on Toronto-based Viryl Technologies’ Warm Tone presses—the most advanced in the world. The cloud-based, high-tech machines can chop the current average fulfillment lead time from six months to six weeks, and press record in about 30 seconds. So far, Hand Drawn Pressing has manufactured “Duende,” the new album from Texas’ own Band of Heathens, as well as re-issues of the label’s own releases and artists, but John Snodgrass, VP of business development for the label and the plant, said new orders are starting to pour in from major labels and indie artists alike. Make no mistake: The high-tech process for making a record is virtually the same as it was 50 years ago. “[They’re] still made by humans ... and there’s a lot of TLC involved,” Snodgrass said. Perhaps most importantly is the unrivaled sonic quality of vinyl, especially from a Warm Tone: “[It’s] the closest you’ll get to what it sounds like when you record it in the studio,” Blocker said. “Every time, it’s like a new piece of art.”