Jack White: On the Record -By: Johnny Mystery

Written by on August 7, 2022

It is safe to say, 20 years ago, not many would even dream the vinyl format could be profitable again but there it is. The plastic waffle is outselling compact discs by leaps and bounds. A billion- dollar industry? That’s the word now. The problem is the demand is growing faster than the ability to produce. Yeah, the old supply and demand syndrome. Many artists, who’s fans prefer records, are not able to get the product out. The lack of pressing plants means indie groups must wait almost a year to get a record out.

Jack White’s “Third Man Records” company built his own pressing plant in 2017. He has eight brand new or refurbished pressing machines at a factory located in his hometown of Detroit. Keep in mind, new pressing machines have not been made in over 30 years. It’s 60’s technology but it still works.

The former White Stripes front man has now issued a challenge to Warner Bros., Universal and Sony to build their own pressing plants. No word from these majors yet but it stands to reason, they would be missing out on a market that is not a novelty anymore. Turntables are flying out of box stores and Amazon warehouses. More and more music fans like the idea of holding a record in their hands instead of pulling it down from some invisible cloud in bliggity-blog land.

The possibilities of introducing a new generation to the great music that’s been made over the last 100 years in this format are mind blowing. New bands and artists are also ready to bust out.

Third Man have procured the rights to releases from the catalogs of Sun Records, Chess, Tamla and Motown. That’s a treasure trove of blues, country, R&B, rockabilly and soul, some of which are just seeing the light of day for the first time in decades. This music is now available everywhere, every day and you can touch it. Their platinum collection of folk artists from Paramount Records recently won a Grammy.

Spoken word recordings from Carl Sagan and Conan O Brian are also being produced and here’s a good one for ya; the very first record by the King of Rock and Roll is available. We’re not talking about “Heartbreak Hotel” either. Jack managed to track down the acetate that Elvis made, when he walked into Sun Records in 1953 after his truck driving job, plunked down four bucks and recorded “That’s Where Your Heartaches Begin” for his mama’s birthday. Big E’s real first record as in they only made one. A copy of that song is available now on a 45 or vinyl 10-inch. I know because I have one and it’s magnificent!

Vinyl has truly reintegrated itself back into the culture. It shouldn’t be a big trick for the huge multibillion-dollar music mongers to get the machines up and steaming for profits I bet they can smell already. The artists need the outlets to produce. What’s the hold up?

If Mr. White can put something like this together with his time, money and effort, one can only imagine what Sony, Universal and Warner’s could do. For the first time in a long time, some people I know are pretty excited for the music industry but it all hinges on companies getting off their collective butts and taking a history lesson or two. Our recorded music is important.

I hope at least one of them takes a page from the Third Man playbook. At the Detroit plant, you can walk into a shop where they sell the records that they make right out back. They even have a window where you can watch the action take place. Kinda sounds like a bakery and who doesn’t have fun at a bakery? Now go hit the bins!

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