Record Store Day was just recently, where independent music retailers across the United States host concerts and sell limited edition pressings of vinyl records. The interest shown on Record Store Day this year points to a small vinyl resurgence, however the antique machines that are used to produce these records are making it hard to keep up with increasing demand.
Acoustic Sounds, a notable vinyl pressing plant in Salina, Kansas operated by Chad Kassem, is hoping to mitigate the problem of antique machines. Kassem has been collecting records since he was a kid, but it wasn’t until he moved to Kansas in 1984 that his hobby turned into a business. "You sell albums and you sell pre-owned albums and people are looking for particular albums nobody is putting out and they're very valuable. [So] you decide to reissue it," Kassem told NPR.
Kassem assembled a staff and decided to start Acoustic Sounds. He contacted record labels about reissuing classic albums and he actually only contracted out the vinyl pressings in the early stages of his business. As his business grew, Kassem knew he would need to build his own pressing plant; this took him 20 years and $2 million. He finally was able to buy his first pressing machines in 2010 from England and Los Angeles. The machines required two experienced technicians to get them up and running. Kassem’s first big customer with his new plant was the estate of Jimi Hendrix. His plant, Quality Record Pressings, reissued the entire Jimi Hendrix catalog on vinyl in 2010. In addition to Hendrix, Quality Records is also pressing records by Leonard Cohen, KISS, Pink Floyd, and The Doors.
Currently, there are around 16 records pressing plants across the U.S., and each one of them is trying to find the remaining unused pressing plants in the country to put them back into production. Kassem recently bought 13 rusting presses from a guy in Chicago. His technicians are currently in the process of stripping down the machines and rebuilding them for production. Many parts need to be refurbished or replaced, but it’s all worth it for Chad Kassem. "Basically, the first time you see these old, rusty presses, it looks like scrap metal," Kassem said. "But it's not scrap metal. It looks like gold to you once you've seen what they can do and make."