New vinyl pressing plant plans to keep independent Canadian bands top of mind
In December, Precision Record Pressing in Burlington will go into operation with custom-built pressing technology some three decades newer than any other facility in North America. A joint project of Isotope Music Distribution and Czech vinyl manufacturing giant GZ, Precision is planning to make it faster and cheaper for Canadian musicians to put their tunes on vinyl.
For Paul Miller, president and owner of Toronto’s SAMO Media, the new plant promises to alleviate a traffic jam that’s been going on for years in the vinyl manufacturing sector.
“No new presses have been built since the early 1980s,” he points out, “and the old refurbished ones in circulation regularly break down, adding even more layers of delays.”
As lavish reissues and Record Store Day novelties continue to drive the “vinyl renaissance,” independent artists have been increasingly muscled out.
“You see plants favour high-volume clients over small bands, who get pushed to the very back of the line,” says Miller. “At some plants, turnarounds grew to crazy lengths like six-plus months. It is really heartbreaking to see bands’ tours and release shows missed.”
Miller says Precision’s turnaround time will be less than eight weeks.
Of course, there’s a lot more to making a record than pressing the vinyl. Inserts and jackets need to be printed, cut, scored and glued. The labels that go on the records themselves need to be die-cut and affixed. Everything needs to be assembled, shrink-wrapped and packaged for shipping.
This is where SAMO comes in. As a long-time broker for vinyl manufacturing in Toronto, SAMO offered clients all those services under one roof, a boon to musicians with modest-sized projects and limited resources.
“Eighty per cent of our projects came from small record labels and bands,” Miller estimates.
As North American wait times ballooned to cartoonish proportions, SAMO decided to take a hit to shipping charges and outsourced its vinyl production to GZ, the ultra-modern pressing facility in the Czech Republic that’s one of the world’s largest vinyl producers.
GZ in turn sensed an under-served market in North America and became interested in bringing its pressing technology to this side of the Atlantic, eventually partnering with Burlington-based Isotope, one of the world’s largest distributors of CDs and LPs. For the past year, GZ’s engineers and technicians have been installing presses and training personnel at the Precision plant.
From the perspective of everyone involved, the idea of SAMO marrying into this family was a no-brainer.
“My staff and I merged with Precision Record Pressing in March,” says Miller, effectively becoming the company’s sales and service wing in Toronto. “The SAMO moniker was retired, and even though I loved running it and have a lot of pride in what we built, doing the PRP thing made this all feel fresh again. I can honestly say I’m having more fun now.”
Canadian musicians can look forward not only to greatly reduced wait times but also to a wider range of pressing options.
“I don’t know when the last time splatter records, picture discs or half-and-half vinyl was manufactured in Canada, but I think you have to go back at least 20 years,” says Miller. “We’re going to bring vinyl into the 21st century. It’s about time this industry was modernized.”
More importantly for Miller, Precision’s arrival helps level the field after years of frustration.
“I think the meltdown record plants went through have put a real dent in independent music,” he says. “I believe we have an actual obligation to be the plant that says 100 runs get just as much attention as 10,000.
“That’s going to help the average band in Canada.”
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