Vinyl New York Times Large
Vinyl New York Times Large

Vinyl's Modern Return To Glory Is Being Powered By Antique Machines

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

Screenshop via New York Times Video

"The hardest part of making a record is actually making the record." That insight into the world of vinyl record manufacturing sums up the New York Times' new profile on Vinyl makers--the men and women sweating it out to help fuel resurgence of wax records. As the music industry continues to seek out stable revenue streams, vinyl records have returned to the spotlight as a means of owning, collecting and tangibly connecting to the songs and artists we love. That love is only possible through hard work, and, to put it plainly: making vinyl is a sweaty, loud toil.

At the center of the Times profile are machines. Filled with knobs, switches and searing metal presses, the machines that construct the majority of vinyl sold today are decades old--some date back to the 1970s or even earlier.They require constant maintenance, and they aren't easy to fix. Fixing a screw in one defective machine cost Independent Record Pressing $5,000, while another Kansas vinyl plant employee told the Times that 13 of their machines "looked like scrap metal to anybody but me" when he purchased them for cheap in Chicago. Those presses are still being restored.

Vinyl machines must be regularly shut down when they overheat, and often times turn out many useless lopsided or bent wax discs before they're finally dialed in to the perfect settings. All that trouble is worth it, though. "Last year more than 13 million LPs were sold in the United States, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, the highest count in 25 years," the Times wrote, "making it one of the record business’s few growth areas."

Old but not yet obsolete, many vinyl presses making modern hip-hop records very likely pressed copies of the actual 70s and 80s songs being sampled by producers. Once again, heritage and the cyclical connections of music are found to be very rich in vinyl indeed. Watch video from the Times on the Independent factory below, and read the entire piece here.