Jack White Says All Major Labels Need To Build Their Own Vinyl Records Pressing Plants Immediately

As vinyl sales just reached record highs, the issue of vinyl pressing plant shortages is coming to a head. Yes, the prevailing thinking is that the demand for vinyl from pop stars like Taylor Swift and Adele is responsible for the nearly year-long waits for vinyl records to be pressed for smaller (often independent) artists, but no, they are not the reason why these delays exist. Jack White, who owns his own Third Man Records pressing plant in Detroit, has just issued a pointed call to action to the major labels.

“It’s no longer a fad,” White said in a minute-long video message from his Detroit facility posted earlier today. “Vinyl records have exploded in the past decade and the demand is incredibly high. He cites how “a small punk band can’t get their record for 8-10 months,” and then issues one final call out to the majors: “I now ask the major labels, Warner Brothers [sic], Universal, and Sony, to finally build your own pressing plants again. As the MC 5 once said, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. Thank you.”

He also issued a written statement with more details and clarification, which you can read below. Watch White’s briefer video message above.

“At least once a week, without fail, someone will reach out asking me to help expedite their vinyl record manufacturing. It’s a natural thought… knowing that I own a pressing plant and have my own record label, “if anyone could help, 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 contingent on being of-the-moment and timed just right (a single, an album, a tour etc.), these timelines are the killers of momentum, soul, artistic expression, and far too often, livelihoods.

I’ve done everything within my power to help. Third Man Records began a concentrated focus on vinyl in 2009 with hopes of exposing its wider potential to the farthest reaches of the music industry. In 2017 I furthered my commitment by opening Third Man Pressing… a plant which has always been open to anyone and everyone who walks in the door and wants to press a record, from bedroom hip hop artists to field recording documentarians. And in the last year, I’ve doubled down and invested in even more record presses, more employees to run them, and more shifts to try and accommodate the insane growing demand for vinyl product.

There are people who will say – isn’t this good for Third Man? More demand than you can handle? To which I say, even though 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 needs to be done.

While the entirety of vinyl investment and framework in the past decade has originated from independent companies and investors, the bigger problems we now see require major solutions.

In this spirit, I turn to our collegial big brothers in the music world, Sony, Universal, and Warner, and politely implore them to help alleviate this unfortunate backlog and start dedicating resources to build pressing plants themselves.

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

Across the globe, there are now a handful of NEW companies, building both automated and manual vinyl presses. It’s easier to purchase a vinyl press now than it has been in four decades. And with more ancillary innovators popping up every day helping advance every facet of the industry, this isn’t a difficult decision to make. It’s a no-brainer.

We’re all on the same team with the same goals. I truly believe that with a good faith investment in the infrastructure that got us here, we can continue on this upward trajectory and further inspire the worlds around us. Now is the time. Thank you.

jack white

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