Empire Building: Vinyl Edition

The Dallas Morning News:

[Josey Records managing partners Waric] Cameron and [Luke] Sardello say they approached [vinyl pressing plant owner Stan] Getz about buying A&R in July. They’d known him for years, having run dance-music labels of their own in the mid-1990s; like every local label, they had to get their records pressed at A&R, especially since the CD essentially killed the vinyl industry by the early 1990s and the nearest facility is now in faraway Salina, Kansas.

As recently as five years ago, buying a record-pressing facility might have been considered a dreadful investment unless you also had a time machine to go with it. Yet sales of records continue to climb: According to figures provided by the Recording Industry Association of America, more than 13 million LPs were sold in the U.S. alone in 2014. Numbers haven’t been that high since 1990.

“The business of vinyl is an old business model, and it’s the one that has survived everything,” Sardello says. “Vinyl has survived streaming, and not only has it survived, it’s thrived. It’s up 40 percent each year. So what else is there to detract from it? It’s never been easier to access music, and yet vinyl is as strong as it’s been for the last 25 years.”

At the same time, they will begin opening other Josey Records stores: Cameron says he wants to have six to 10 more outlets in the next two years in “major metropolitan areas,” including San Antonio.

“The thought was always vertical integration,” says Sardello, “We started thinking about bands. We started thinking about a label. We started thinking about a studio. We started thinking about more stores and how we can work with bands and labels and go from pressing your records to distributing our records to putting them in our stores to sending your band on a store tour.”

Kudos to these guys, who I'd met on-and-off back in my DJ'ing days. The lede buried in the main story, but that I highlight above, is the plan to eventually cover the manufacturing, distribution, and retail stages of releases under the company operation. This is the strategy major labels used to dominate in their heyday, so it's interesting to see an independent upstart take on similar goals. Of course the elephant in the room is that today's 'physical product' climate is much different (despite comparisons), and the majors themselves no longer follow this process – acquiring equity in streaming services, in hopes to somewhat replicate the traditional food chain, seems to be the current major label modus operandi. So it's a gusty move to pin such high aspirations on a format with an unpredictable shelf-life … vinyl's extended perseverance is an optimist's hope. But, as I join in optimistically rooting for vinyl, I'm also rooting for Josey, and we certainly need more gutsy maneuvers like this in the independent music biz. Rock on.