Spin Doc­tors

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.”

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