Jack White wants major labels to build vinyl pressing plants

Former White Stripe Jack White has a lot on his plate right now. A new record, Fear of the Dawn, arrives in three weeks. Then another one, Entering Heaven Alive, hits shelves in the middle of July. And, he’s just announced a North American and European tour set to run from April through August. It would make sense then that he wants to pointedly discuss one of those items, right?

Wrong.

White has vinyl production on his mind. He would like to talk about the problems with music lovers and makers obtaining music in the format in a reasonable timeframe. And he wants the major labels to step up and help change the situation.

“At least once a week, without fail, someone will reach out asking me to help expedite their vinyl record manufacturing,” he said in a written statement released this past Monday. “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!’”

Back in 2017, when it was clear that the vinyl resurgence was more than just a trend embraced by hipsters before they moved onto the next brand of beard oil, White opened a record pressing plant under the name Third Man Pressing as a kind of extension of his Third Man Records. Since 2009, the label began a concentrated focus on vinyl.

“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 continued, adding that he’s done, “everything within my power to help.”

Currently, there are less than two dozen vinyl pressing plants in the United States. The New Statesman reported in September of last year there are fewer than 100 pressing plants worldwide. Meanwhile, 2021 saw vinyl sales outpace compact discs, moving 41.72 million units for a 30-year high and a 51.4 percent growth from just the year prior.

Unfortunately, all that growth creates problems in how quick the turnaround time is from when a band places an order until the physical copies are available. White claims to have “doubled down” on presses, employees and hours to meet the product demand. But it’s not nearly enough, and he wants the majors to get involved to help ease the delays.

“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,” White said. “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.”

White spoke of how it’s easier to purchase a vinyl press now than it was four decades ago, calling it a “no-brainer” for the majors to show a more concentrated interest in production and that the upward trajectory can only continue with their assistance.

“As the MC5 once said,” White added in a video plea to accompany his written statement, “you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.”

A version of this article appears in this week’s print and online editions of my syndicated Rock Music Menu column under the title “Jack White wants major labels to build vinyl pressing plants.”

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