Amid the resurgence of vinyl records, we visited NC’s only vinyl pressing facility

Gar Ragland has always been a music fan, ever since growing up in Winston-Salem. “I fondly remember growing up in Winston, saving my money to mow the lawn and going to the Record Bar or one of the local record stores with my dad on a Saturday afternoon,” Ragland said. Fast forward a few decades and his love of vinyl is still strong and still deepening, although vinyl records were almost lost to newer technology just a decade ago. exponential growth in popularity similar to a hockey stick, and the pandemic has only catalyzed further growth,” said Ragland, who now lives in Asheville and works as a music producer. Ragland runs his own record label and is also the founder and CEO of Citizen Vinyl, North Carolina’s only active vinyl manufacturing facility In 2011, vinyl accounted for just 2% of physical music sales, but ended 2021 with 50.4% of all physical sales, according to MRC data According to MRC, in recent years sales have been driven by classics like the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac, but this year albums by contemporary artists have topped the sales charts. Adele’s ’30’, Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Sour’ and Taylor Swift’s ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ led the way. The facility has been redeveloped to include a cafe, bar, recording studio and record store. A daily curated playlist spins on a record player steps away from the record press facility which guests can peruse each day. The press operates 12 hours a day, seven days a week and offers free tours of its facilities every Friday and Sunday to anyone interested. Peter Schaper, vice president of operations, runs the press, and his experience with vinyl dates back to the 1980s in his native Germany. “We weren’t making money off of vinyl, and it was really hard work. And then people said to us, there’s a new product, they call it CDs,” Schaper said. “So I close the vinyl factory. Crazy enough, in 2016 I shut down a CD facility here in Asheville and went back to vinyl. A loop in my life that I would never believe.” When Schaper’s vinyl factory closed, and with no interested buyers, the factory left 100 vinyl presses in a junkyard. For reference, Citizen Vinyl only owns three presses, each costing around a quarter of a million dollars although they are quite similar to machines that Schaper left in a landfill decades ago.”Vinyl as a form of physical music has been around for over 80 years. , and amazingly, the technology and science behind making records hasn’t changed much in those eight decades,” Ragland said. It’s a multi-step process: first, crushed vinyl pebbles are dumped into the machine and molded together to form a vinyl block resembling a hockey puck. This puck is then labeled with an A side and a B side, and the press machine is closed. A sheet of aluminum called a matrix presses down on the material, flattening the vinyl and creating the grooves that will soon contain music. The vinyl record is then removed and the excess vinyl from the flattening process, called flesh, is cut and recycled to be ground into vinyl pebbles which can start the process over again. The finished disc is left to cool with aluminum foil separating the bands. discs to prevent warping. In the past year alone, vinyl sales have jumped 51%, from 27.5 million records sold in 2020 to 41.7 million sold in 2021. Vinyl sales even beat CDs for the first times since 1991. Citizen vinyl presses are already nearly fully booked through the remainder of 2022. Ragland says vinyl pressing facilities are only able to meet half of current demand in the United States. a good thing for the industry,” Ragland said. “The fastest growing vinyl consumer demographic is 18-24 year olds,” he adds. He thinks the accessibility of streaming allows fans to fall in love with new artists they might never hear of otherwise. “And if they really like them and can experience their music, they can invest in buying a physical disc knowing they’re going to enjoy the whole disc,” Ragland said. vinyl is here to stay, citing a younger generation’s ability to detach themselves from technology: “It’s not necessarily because you can do something in a digital environment, like listening to music or reading a book, that’s not necessarily the most satisfying way to experience it,” Ragland said. To learn more about Citizen Vinyl or how to visit and schedule a visit, click here.

Gar Ragland has always been a music fan, ever since growing up in Winston-Salem.

“I fondly remember growing up in Winston, saving my money to mow the lawn and going to the Record Bar or one of the local record stores with my dad on a Saturday afternoon” , said Ragland.

Fast forward a few decades and his love of vinyl is still strong and still deepening, although vinyl records were almost lost to new technology just a decade ago.

“Over the past 12 years, vinyl has had this exponential growth in popularity similar to a hockey stick, and the pandemic has only catalyzed further growth,” said Ragland, who now lives in Asheville and works as a music producer. Ragland runs his own record label and is also the founder and CEO of Citizen VinylNorth Carolina’s only active vinyl manufacturing facility.

In 2011, vinyl accounted for just 2% of physical music sales, but ended 2021 with 50.4% of all physical sales, according to MRC data.

According to MRC, in recent years sales have been driven by classics like the Beatles and Fleetwood Mac, but this year albums by contemporary artists topped the sales charts. Adele’s ’30’, Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Sour’ and Taylor Swift’s ‘Red (Taylor’s Version)’ led the way.

We visited the Citizen Vinyl Record Press, which is located in the heart of downtown Asheville in the historic Asheville Citizen-Times building. The facility has been redeveloped to include a cafe, bar, recording studio and record store. A daily curated playlist spins on a record player steps away from the record press facility which guests can peruse each day.

The press operates 12 hours a day, seven days a week and offers free visits of their establishment every Friday and Sunday to anyone interested. Peter Schaper, vice president of operations, runs the press, and his experience with vinyl dates back to the 1980s in his native Germany.

“We didn’t make any money off the vinyl, and it was really hard work. And then people told us there was a new product, they call it CDs,” Schaper said. . “So I’m closing the vinyl facility. Crazy enough, in 2016 I closed a CD facility here in Asheville and went back to vinyl. A loop in my life that I would never believe.”

When Schaper’s vinyl factory closed and no buyers were interested, the factory left 100 vinyl presses in a junkyard.

For reference, Citizen Vinyl only has three presses, each costing around a quarter of a million dollars, though they’re quite similar to the machines Schaper left in a landfill decades ago.

“Vinyl as a form of physical music has been around for over 80 years, and surprisingly the technology and science behind record making hasn’t changed much in those eight decades,” Ragland said.

It’s a multi-step process: first, crushed vinyl pebbles are dumped into the machine and molded together to form a vinyl block resembling a hockey puck. This puck is then labeled with an A side and a B side, and the press is closed.

A sheet of aluminum called a pad presses down on the material, flattening the vinyl and creating the grooves that will soon contain music.

The vinyl record is then removed and the excess vinyl from the flattening process, called defleshing, is cut and recycled to be ground into vinyl pebbles which can start the process over again.

The finished disc is left to cool with aluminum sheets separating the disc groups to prevent warping.

Last year alone, vinyl sales jumped 51%, from 27.5 million records sold in 2020 to 41.7 million sold in 2021. Vinyl sales even beat CDs for the first time since 1991.

Citizen Vinyl’s presses are already almost fully booked for the remainder of 2022. Ragland says vinyl pressing facilities are only able to meet half of current demand in the United States.

“Most, if not all, pressing plants don’t really have to scramble to do business these days. And that’s a good thing for the industry,” Ragland said.

“The fastest growing vinyl consumer demographic is 18-24 year olds,” he adds.

He thinks the accessibility of streaming allows fans to fall in love with new artists they might never hear.

“And if they really like them and can experience their music, they can invest in buying a physical disc knowing they’re going to enjoy the whole disc,” Ragland said.

He thinks the vinyl trend is here to stay, citing a younger generation’s ability to detach themselves from technology.

“Just because you can do something in a digital environment, like listening to music or reading a book, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most satisfying way to have that experience,” Ragland said. .

To learn more about Citizen Vinyl or to find out how to visit and schedule a visit, click here.

Jack L. Goldstein