Jack White Asks Major Labels to Pitch In on Vinyl Manufacturing
In a one-minute video posted Monday, Jack White stands in Third Man Records’ pressing plant to urge major record labels to build their own pressing plants to help solve a global vinyl backlog.
Smaller bands often must wait 8-10 months for their vinyl orders to be fulfilled, which can throw off the timing of honoring crowdfunding perk promises, stocking merch tables in time for a tour, and more.
“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,” White explains in a statement accompanying the video.
He asks Sony, Universal, and Warner to apply their resources to the problem by building their own vinyl plants — again. As he points out, of course, it was once common for labels to manufacture their own records.
Small plants like his, which opened in 2017 as part of his Third Man Records, are doing all they can to keep up with orders, White says, and more independent plants are opening every day — but it’s just not enough. It’s a big problem, he says, that requires “major solutions.” Major labels making their own vinyl would alleviate the pressure on independent plants, freeing them up to work with smaller orders and speeding up the process for everyone.
Adele, for example, pressed half a million vinyl copies of her latest album, 30, on Sony. Other titles on the label were bumped back in line for manufacturing to accommodate the order by its Nov. 19 release date last year, Variety reported. But even Adele had to have her album done more than six months in advance in order to leave time for vinyl pressing. Other artists have to work ever further ahead, separating the immediacy of the album’s creation from the time fans can listen on their favorite format.
According to sales measurements by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), vinyl sales grew by nearly 30% between 2019 and 2020, and vinyl famously outpaced CDs in 2020 for the first time since the 1980s. Fans appetite for the format doesn’t appear to be waning, but small pressing plants — like Third Man — can only handle so much. And White is using his stature in the industry to call for help from the big companies that have the resources to give it.
“As the MC5 once said,” White says in his video, “you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.”