Making A Record

The Pressing Plant

My label’s first release is finishing its own tour of house and techno’s birthplaces (mastering just outside Chicago at Prairie Cat, plating just outside NYC at Mastercraft) at Archer Record Pressing in Detroit. The plates were shipped to Archer, who then attatch them to the press. These plates act as stampers. A chunk of vinyl is then placed inbetween the plates which are then pushed together using powerful hydraulics with 100 tons of force to shape it into a record. The edges are then trimmed and the records are loaded into their sleeves. The Detroit News has a nice little video online showing what goes down at Archer, with narration by Mike Archer and Theo Parrish.

There are usually two runs done for a record, the initial white label test pressing and then the full label art pressing. The white label run of my record was completed over the weekend. Five test presses are in the mail on their way to me now to be checked for any pressing flaws. Flaws could come from a mistake in mastering, damage done to the acetate in shipping to the plating facility, damage done to the stampers, etc. The rest of the test presses are waiting for me at Archer, where I will pick them up on the way into Detroit next Thursday for DEMF. Once I approve the test presses, get the label art together, and pay Archer the final 50% of the pressing costs (ha!), the final pressing will be run.

Now all that is left to do is get those records into the hands of deejays and music heads around the world! That will be the subject of the next post in this series…..

Photo of Archer courtesy of Adam Ratana

22 Comments

  1. kent says:

    The Archer guys are the best. Once I did one pressing with them, the next record, they waived the deposit and just charged me for the tests. That makes it hella easier to afford to make records — you can get the tests without being out a big chunk of change, and then size the production run to advance orders from distributors.

    At least that was the way it worked when there were still distributors ;-(

  2. Pinky says:

    The birth of a record – liking these journal posts. Are you able to divulge the pressing run and the eventual cost per record?

  3. pipecock says:

    hmm, i havent really decided about summing it all up like that. let’s just say that if you look at the site i have posted so far (really just the Archer and Prairie Cat ones, Archer pays the plating company) you can easily figure out how much it costs in total and per record.

  4. Mike & Joe are great guys man, Kenny & Andy are great too. Can’t go wrong with Archer.

    If you plan on making money from music, my advice is don’t get into solely pressing vinyl. Most don’t make money from pressing. (On the other hand you may blow up and it really, really can help with the promotion of yourself and your label.) If you want to do vinyl, save your money because most distributors don’t pay for at least 3 months meaning you’ll need the capitol from your own pocket to get the next release rolling. Profit margins on vinyl is about 0.70 – 0.90 USD per record (if you’re lucky) What I’m trying to say is you’ll need to be smart & patient but mostly do it for the love…

  5. pipecock says:

    i busted my ass going to school for electrical engineering so i don’t have to do this shit for money. that way i can do everything exactly the way i want. all releases i take part in will be vinyl only, this blog runs with no ads, and i am starting to get more into doing events in Pittsburgh with various cats from out of town. my shit is all very specific, i can’t let it get watered down just because of $$$$$$.

  6. padraig says:

    want to say that this is a great series of posts/articles. not even as a how-to either but also as, I dunno, just a documenation of how ideas are transeferred from someone’s head to vinyl – for anyone who’s seen Rockers the pressing plant montage is one of my favorite moments of that movie. there’s nothing wrong with hyping new releases & events & mixes but this is the kind of stuff I reckon blogs should do more of. big up to man like Pipecock & best of luck w/your record & label.

  7. padraig says:

    oh also for anyone who remembers/read Woebot I’m pretty (tho not totally) sure that he did a piece or series of pieces on pressing vinyl, which I recall being pretty good, lots of stuff about the actual pressing & mastering & so on.

  8. pipecock says:

    yeah that scene in Rockers is probably my favorite scene (to my favorite track, Kiddus I’s “Graduation in Zion”!!) from one of my favorite movies.

    and thanks, but the best way you can give me luck is to buy a copy when it comes out! 😉

  9. Denise says:

    “My shit is all very specific.”

    Okay, now that is such a great sentence! (and sentiment, for sure) Thank you for documenting all this. I can’t wait for you to pick up your records next week!! I will be sending my dollars your way.

  10. ShaolinSoul says:

    so whos on it? Omar S, Theo Parrish, Moodymann?

    Im not buying it if all three were’nt involved…

    Just kidding lol. I assume it would probably sound detroity, and that is a sound I like!

  11. Mr. Twon says:

    One of my all time favorite movies, thanks to Tom(Pipecock) for screening it. When i get my Transport(motorcycle) ill be the best record salesman on the west coast for you Tom!

  12. padraig says:

    so, it turns out it’s actually about mastering:

    http://www.woebot.com/movabletype/archives/000033.html

    a couple of other Woebot gems:

    Suburban Base sleeve art – http://www.woebot.com/2006/06/the_sleeve_art_of_dave_nodz.html

    29 Detroit techno 12″s – http://www.woebot.com/movabletype/archives/000597.html

  13. well you have the right idea then. I’m interesting in hearing the label.

  14. gmos says:

    you can see the glamour of vinyl records is still alive in that photo!

  15. antonio says:

    hey tom! can you please spill the beans on your label’s first release?

  16. matt says:

    Really looking forward to this, and thanks for the cool step-by-step. Consider my order placed.

  17. Barry says:

    i predict shake ! am i right ???

  18. pipecock says:

    ha, no. i believe i mentioned in the very first post with the background that the artist is a new artist who hasn’t had a vinyl release before, i first heard his shit when he added me and ISM on myspace…..

  19. [mark] says:

    to expound on what i said privately, and don’t mind saying publicly… the end result of this entire process can only be good. more great music coming out of a city that doesn’t get recognized for the deep, deep musical heritage born here, and is barely noticed for the amazing music that has happened more recently (technoir crew, i’m looking at you) is a highly unfortunate.

    i won’t even mention the handful of “artists” who HAVE been recognized…for all the wrong reasons.

    the 412/313 connection is deep, and i hope the work you and the artists you work with take it to the next level.

  20. Stephen says:

    my shit is entirely unspecific 😉

  21. Jez says:

    Tom, just found this series and I am hooked. I will definitely buy one, whatever the release is – as I know it will be worth having/playing out!

    After kids, birthing a record might just be the second best thing in life. I know getting the Don Froth record out earlier this year was a total blast. Even better to get to the West Coast last week and see it for sale in some great record shops. Wishing you well with this. Respect!

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