Will Vinyl Help Save America's Economy?

The newest factory in Detroit doesn't exactly feel like one.

Walk into Jack White's Third Man Pressing record plant, and you're greeted by a burst of stylized sensations: A glossy sunflower-yellow floor. Tables stacked with a rainbow of colored LPs. An eye-catching mural by neighborhood artist Robert Sestok along a back wall. Music drifting across the acoustically tiled room and coming from — appropriately — a nearby turntable.

Most important, after more than a year in the works at the back of Third Man's retail store, the facility is finally humming with the sound of music being stamped to hot vinyl, trimmed to size, and packaged for sale.

Third Man Pressing, with its typically artful, whimsical Jack White touch, is the first record plant to open here since Archer Record Pressing in 1965. And it makes Detroit one of the few places in the world with multiple pressing facilities.

The occasion will be marked with a public celebration at Third Man on Saturday, including live bands, facility tours and a slew of Detroit-related records hot off the presses. Among the items available in limited-edition colored vinyl will be the White Stripes' first two albums, reissues of the MC5 and Stooges' debut releases, and the first-ever 7-inch singles from techno icons Derrick May and Carl Craig.

"People can watch a record being made, then turn around instantly and buy that record," says Ben Blackwell, who oversees Third Man's vinyl operation. "As far as we can tell, this is probably the only place where that's even happening in the world."

Like his Uncle Jack, Blackwell is a Detroit expatriate now based in Nashville, home to the Third Man label headquarters where White's catalog — the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, his solo work — is managed alongside a roster of rock, country, R&B and specialty projects. There, the company has relied largely on United Record Pressing for its production needs, often encountering the backups that have set in across the globe as record plants cope with the vinyl resurgence.

Third Man Pressing is opening with about 16 full-time staffers, including press operators and packaging workers. Many were drawn from Detroit's music and art community, and some have toured other U.S. record plants for lessons ahead of the Third Man Pressing launch.

The staff number could grow to 50 "once we're running at full tilt," says Roe Peterhans, who manages the Detroit Third Man complex.

The plant stands to become as much a tourist destination as manufacturing facility, with tours scheduled monthly in addition to the full-time viewing deck where visitors can check out the pressing process.

Third Man Pressing Detroit

441 W. Canfield, Detroit

313-209-5205


SOURCE: Detroit Free Press

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