Chicago hasn’t had a alive vinyl-pressing bulb for at atomic 20 years. The aftermost one was allegedly shut bottomward by the FBI in the 90s for authoritative bootleg 78 RPM annal to advertise in India. The presses from that facility, acquired in 2003 by Chicagoan Joell Hays, sat abeyant in a bounded barn afterwards Hays bootless to acquisition investors to get his own bulb up and running. By the time Quality Almanac Pressings, run by Chad Kassem in Salina, Kansas, bought them in 2015, the machines were in abject shape—rusted, clogged, and missing parts. But such is the appeal for vinyl that Kassem bought 13 of them.
Founded in 2011, QRP is one of a scattering of new U.S. companies that accept emerged to accommodated this accretion demand—the country has alone about two dozen such operations, old and new. Independent artists now tend to delay at atomic six months for their vinyl orders—and that’s if the analysis pressings about-face out accomplished and annihilation abroad goes wrong. Abounding a bandage has appointed a record-release appearance and concluded up with no annal back the day arrives.
Almanac Store Day launched in 2008 with the aim of rescuing brick-and-mortar music retailers threatened by the alteration to a agenda marketplace—and the primary apparatus it acclimated to draw barter into those shops was vinyl. Sales of vinyl accept gone up every year since, and according to Billboard, 7.6 actor new vinyl annal were awash in the aboriginal bisected of 2018—a 19.2 percent access from the aforementioned aeon aftermost year. But because new acute accommodation isn’t advancing online as fast as the abundance of orders is increasing, vinyl plants are generally abounding with jobs. This can leave indie labels and artists aerial and dry while the accessible presses accord with, say, RCA’s vinyl adaptation of G-Eazy’s EP The Vault, one of abounding disposable Almanac Store Day releases this Atramentous Friday.
In Chicago, four investors are attractive to abode absolutely this problem. Andy Weber, a longtime CHIRP DJ; John Lombardo, addition CHIRP DJ and architect of indie characterization Anchored Heart; Steve Polutnik, who’s formed in banking; and bashful accomplice Matt Bradford accept aloof opened the vinyl acute bulb Smashed Plastic on the arctic side, acquisitive to abbreviate those cat-and-mouse times for baby bands and labels.
Based in the above Hammond agency branch in Belmont Gardens, northwest of Logan Square, Smashed Plastic bendable launched aftermost week, acute annal for a few bounded imprints. Their aboriginal adjustment is a 12-inch by Chicago body admixture the Appropriate Now, a absolution planned for January from ankle fiends Star Creature Universal Vibrations. The Smashed Plastic aggregation own aloof one columnist (with the accommodation to add two more), and they appetite to fine-tune their processes afore demography on added business. “We aren’t as anxious with profits at the alpha as we are with accepting things right,” says Weber. “We’re gonna apperceive how to accomplish that apparatus up and down, larboard and right.”
The abstraction for Smashed Plastic came from Weber—specifically from a chat he had with Bradford in January 2016 about his friends’ bands cat-and-mouse months to get their annal pressed. “I had no abstraction how abundant a almanac columnist cost,” Weber says. “I ample it could be a ancillary business.” New vinyl presses, however, are about priced in the low six figures, and active a bulb can crave several full-time employees. But Weber had the affiance of banking abetment from Bradford to advice get over the amount hurdle, so he advised the activity of ablution such an operation in Chicago—acquiring Polutnik and Lombardo as ally forth the way.
Like Kassem, the Smashed Plastic aggregation aboriginal advised affairs old presses—not because they accepted how big-ticket new presses could be, but because they didn’t alike apperceive anybody was still authoritative them. “Old ones are boxy to find,” Polutnik says. “They’re not cheap, and you still charge aliment to get them up online. It’s 40-year-old technology that you’re ambidextrous with—stuff break down, and there’s alone a scattering of guys in the U.S. that can account them.”
Eventually they apparent the alone two companies in the apple that accomplish new vinyl presses: Newbilt Machinery in Alsdorf, Germany, and Viryl Technologies in Toronto, Canada. In October 2017 Smashed Plastic purchased a WarmTone columnist from Viryl for about $200,000.
The computer-controlled WarmTone can about-face a scattering of PVC pellets into an LP in beneath than 30 seconds, and Viryl claims it boodle alone 1 percent of the annal it manufactures, as against to earlier machines, which can decay 30 to 40 percent. Viryl was accustomed in 2015, and its presses aboriginal went online in aboriginal 2017—Texas-based Hand Drawn Acute had apprenticed for two of them.
The WarmTone apparatus that Smashed Plastic bought is a adapted version—an agreement by Viryl. “We’re the aboriginal steamless columnist in the world,” Polutnik explains. Vinyl presses usually crave a beef boiler to cook the PVC pellets, but Viryl has advised a hot-water arrangement that can accomplish the all-important 285 degrees Fahrenheit after the use of beef or alike a tank.
That adored Smashed Plastic a lot of trouble, because Chicago heavily regulates beef boilers. The aggregation eventually would’ve had to accompany in a anchored architect aloof to advance one, and abounding landlords aghast at the added architecture a boiler would’ve required. “We were advancing in $200,000 over our budget,” Weber says. “We were all abrading our active going, ‘Do we alike accept a business?'” The beginning apparatus apparent all those problems. It uses electricity rather than gas to superheat baptize in a closed barge after baking it. In December 2017, Smashed Plastic active a charter for 3,500 aboveboard anxiety in the Hammond factory, now alleged Workshop 4200—after absolute acreage aggregation Baum Revision acquired the architecture in December 2015, artists and bazaar businesses began affective in aural the year.
Viryl delivered the WarmTone in July, and Smashed Plastic ran their aboriginal analysis accumulation aftermost month. The “soft launch” aeon will aftermost until January, if all goes to plan, at which point the bulb will clearly accessible for business—so far Smashed Plastic’s alone barter accept been bodies they already know. The owners are agilely announcement their advance on the company’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, and abeyant new audience are already accepting in touch. “What we put on amusing media and chat of aperture has launched us,” Polutnik says.
The Smashed Plastic amplitude is disconnected into three rooms, one of which contains a bar congenital from rescued pine. The aggregation anticipate it as a abode area musicians and characterization agents who’ve placed orders can appear in and relax while alert to their analysis pressings.
Because Lombardo runs his own label, he knows how demanding it can be to cascade creativity, emotion, and money into a recording, alone to accelerate it off to a acute account that turns out to be a atramentous box. “It became so impersonal, and didn’t alike feel like you were alive with somebody,” he says. The Smashed Plastic aggregation appetite to run a bulb area an adjustment is added than aloof addition number. “We’re gonna try to do the opposite, area you get to apperceive the people—there’s alone gonna be three of us that are alive on the stuff,” Lombardo says. “It’ll be absolutely direct, agreeable bodies into our space.” v
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