For the first time in nearly three decades, Sony Music will begin pressing its own vinyl records, rather than licensing out the duty to an independent pressing plant.
The entertainment and electronics giant has announced that it will press its own stacks of wax in a Japanese factory in the southwest of Tokyo beginning in March 2018, the first time it has made its own vinyl since 1989. The move comes amid a decades-long resurgence in vinyl purchases — the market is expected to top $1 billion in sales globally this year.
Interestingly, Sony was a big player in the original vinyl downturn, having spent a massive amount of money in the research and development of the Walkman portable cassette player and the compact disc formats that largely replaced vinyl in the 1980s and 1990s.
But as a new generation began to value physical music in the age of mp3s and streaming, many record companies began pressing larger and larger volumes of their artists’ sounds onto the once-antiquated format, largely due to how profitable the sale of physical records can be. In the first half of 2015, sales of vinyl generated more money for the music industry than all free, ad-supported, streaming plays combined.
With events like Record Store Day to bolster the sales of its massive back catalog, Sony is likely looking to streamline its production process in-house, rather than rely on outside companies to produce its stock.
Record production is beginning to see new growth, as once-mothballed equipment is refurbished, and three global companies are now producing record presses for the first time in decades. Sony recently purchased a vinyl lathe to produce master discs in-house at a Tokyo studio, allowing it the potential to cut, electroform, and press all of its own titles beginning next year. The company has reportedly brought in a crew of experienced engineers to help it produce the best-sounding records it can.
Sony has yet to announce what titles will be the first to see vinyl release from its house-owned pressing facility, but we look forward to listening to the fruits of its labors. The company also makes its own turntable, allowing listeners to get vinyl pressed by Sony, and listen to it on a Sony deck. Now that’s what we call a top-down approach.