Motor City music

Motor City music

Jack White’s Third Man Pressing vinyl music facility has fired up in Detroit this week. First items off the production line are limited-edition, Detroit-centric pressings of the White Stripes' first two albums – The White Stripes and De Stijl – both of which will be released on opaque red vinyl, and debut LPs of the Stooges and MC5, plus seven-inch singles from Derrick May and Carl Craig. On the February 25 opening day, there will be guided tours of the facility with visitors able to watch records pressed from a viewing platform.

For the tech-oriented, we can tell you that Third Man Pressing is lighting up a fleet of new, environmentally efficient pressing machinery, rather than refurbed kit. Each station is outfitted with a touchscreen control for temperature, hydraulic compression, and extruder speed. Capacity is estimated at 5,000 records per shift, with a cycle time of approximately 45 seconds per record. The plant minimises water waste by using recycled water from the record curing process in the air conditioning system.

And the vinyl resurgence is no short-term uptick, with the retro music format is set to shortly see $1 billion in global sales, says Deloitte. Plus the vinyl-purchasing demographic isn’t just made of up stereotypical audiophiles but of all kinds of consumers, from millennials plugging into the near-artisan production of a record, collectors picking up premium releases of albums they already own by other means, to the middle-aged rebuying records they formerly threw out in favour of CDs.

Those buying a record may never even play it. However, they may still value it, for its cover art work, or for its shape, and colour in the case of picture discs. According to buyer research, almost half of those who had purchased a record in the previous month had yet to play it, while 7% did not even have a turntable they could play it on.

But the addressable market for vinyl is likely to be capped, reckons Deloitte. A vinyl box set can cost more than a year’s subscription to a streaming music service with access to a huge library. And creating a physical record is slow and costly. Each disc takes a long while to print, and is created from a master pressing taking hours to create. There is limited manufacturing supply because so many factories shut down in the 1990s.

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