Jack White to Big Labels: Build Your Own Vinyl Record Presses

Jack White, the guitar virtuoso and former leader of the White Stripes, owns and operates Third Man Records, which is both a music label and a vinyl record pressing factory.

Given his extensive background as both an artist and a label executive (and vinyl producer), White took to an open letter and video to offer some advice to fellow label owners. Namely, says White, he thinks they should open their own vinyl pressings.

Nowadays, there are always backlogs when it comes to pressings. Whether it’s the high demand for vinyl albums from artists like Adele or Taylor Swift or just the general backlog due to COVID-19 and other impediments, many players in the music industry music have complained about the shortage of vinyl.

White wants labels to do something about it. In an open letter, he writes:

At least once a week, without fail, someone will contact me to ask me to help expedite the making of their vinyl record. It’s a natural thought… knowing that I own a pressing factory and have my own record company, “if anyone can help me, it’s this guy!”

With industry-wide turnaround times for vinyl currently leaning towards the length of a human pregnancy, it’s obvious, in a world so dependent on the news and the right time (a single , an album, a tour, etc.), these delays are the killers of momentum, soul, artistic expression and, all too often, livelihoods.

I did everything in my power to help. Third Man Records began focusing on vinyl in 2009 in hopes of exposing its wider potential to the far reaches of the music industry. In 2017, I deepened my commitment by opening Third Man Pressing… a factory that has always been open to anyone who walks through the door and wants to press a record, from bedroom hip hop artists to on-the-ground record documentarians. And over the past year, I’ve doubled down and invested in even more record presses, more people to run them, and more teams to try to keep up with the insane growing demand for vinyl products.

There are people who will say: isn’t this good for Third Man? More demand than you can handle? To which I say, even if Third Man benefits in the short term, in the long term it ultimately hurts everyone involved in the vinyl ecosystem given the bottlenecks and delays. Something has to be done.

While the entire investment and framework for vinyl over the past decade has come from independent companies and investors, the biggest issues we see now require major solutions.

With that in mind, I turn to our big college brothers in the music world, Sony, Universal and Warner, and politely implore them to help reduce this unfortunate backlog and start devoting resources to building pressing plants.

To be clear, the issue isn’t big labels versus small labels, it’s not indie versus mainstream, it’s not even punk versus pop. The problem is simply that we have ALL created an environment where the unprecedented demand for vinyl records cannot keep up with the rudimentary supply of them.

Around the world there are now a handful of NEW companies, building both automated and manual vinyl presses. It’s easier to buy a vinyl press today than it has been for four decades. And with more and more ancillary innovators popping up every day to help drive all facets of the industry forward, it’s not a difficult decision to make. It is obvious.

We are all on the same team with the same goals. I truly believe that with a good faith investment in the infrastructure that brought us here, we can continue on this upward trajectory and further inspire the worlds around us. The time has come.

Thank you.
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Soul Step Records quickly wrote on social media that they agreed with White, writing, “We’re with Jack and the @thirdmanrecords team. Do it for independent labels. We are, after all, the labels that discover talent.

Watch White’s video here:

Photo courtesy Big Hassle

Jack L. Goldstein