From Thomas Edison’s 1877 machine that played back on a rotating cylinder to 167 million vinyl LPs sold in 1985, vinyl’s warm yet crisp analog sound was a casualty in the digital eclipse of the compact disc, downloading and streaming.1
In his essay of August 30, 1965, “ART,” L. Ron Hubbard wrote:
“A professional in the arts is one who obtains communication with the art form at the minimum sacrifice of technical quality.”
“No communication is no art. To not do the communication for lack of technical perfection is the primary error. It is also an error not to push up the technical aspects of the result as high as possible.
“One measures the degree of perfection to be achieved by the degree of communication that will be accomplished.”
While we witnessed the advent of music streaming, another movement, largely artist driven, has been accelerating: the rebirth of the vinyl record.
After a near death in the early twenty-first century, vinyl records have been on an upswing since 2008 and were projected to sell 40 million units in 2017, with sales nearing $1 billion, and more than half of vinyl customers being 35 or younger.2
What happened and how?
To many music fans, nothing beats the feeling of putting a record on a turntable, dropping the diamond needle, hearing that first pop, and experiencing a “real” and “warm” analog sound. Millions of music lovers swear by vinyl and the “sound separation” of each distinct instrument as the next best thing to a live show.
A colorful vanguard of vinyl’s reemergence is musician Jack White and Third Man Records.
Born in Detroit, Jack learned to play his first instrument, the drums, as a first grader; and in a house of ten brothers and sisters he hauled his bed out of his room to make way for a drum kit—his passion for music evidently stronger than his desire for sleep.3
With his band The White Stripes, solo work and membership in two other bands, White decided that wasn’t enough and founded Third Man Records (TMR) in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2009. TMR Detroit, a fully functional vinyl pressing plant, opened in 2017.
TMR Nashville is an ode to all things vinyl. It’s a label, unique concert venue, pressing plant and eccentric store.
TMR the label boasts an eclectic roster of established artists, up-and-comers, classic reissues, and exclusive live and spoken-word recordings: The White Stripes, Beck, Mississippi John Hurt, bluegrass prodigy Lillie Mae, comedian Aziz Ansari and late astronomer Carl Sagan.
TMR’s Blue Room is the only live venue in the world where an artist’s performance can be recorded direct to disk using a technique from as far back as the 1930s.
For the total solar eclipse, which passed over Nashville in August 2017, TMR held an outdoor event featuring the Weather Warlock, a musical instrument controlled completely by weather and celestial phenomena.
TMR, the pressing plant, has put out a platinum-coated album, a record with flower petals pressed into it, a liquid-filled record, tri-color disks, glow-in-the-dark vinyl, the world’s fastest record (recorded and pressed in less than four hours), the first record played in space, and countless one-of-a-kind curiosa.
TMR, the store, with its yellow-and-black motif, is a vinyl wonderland of eccentricities. Housed therein you’ll find the Wax-O-Matic, a machine to cast a miniature 1964 guitar; the Scopitone, a 16 mm video jukebox; and the Dip ’n’ Dunk, an all-analog photo booth. The Third Man Record Booth allows visitors to record their own song or message onto disk. Neil Young used it to record an entire album.4
“We have almost no consideration for profit and I think that’s why we are highly profitable,” remarked White. “People always told me over the years: ‘You have such a mind for business and marketing.’ That’s hilarious because I never ever think about it. When you stand for things, people come to you.”5
TMR Detroit (Third Man Pressing) is located in the neighborhood where White went to high school. The facility was fitted with all new presses, new boilers, new hydraulics and new piping—the first all-new American record pressing plant built in over thirty years. It’s expected to produce 5,000 records per eight-hour shift, while next door is TMR’s second store, whose windows allow people to watch the entire pressing process.6
The resurgence of vinyl is reverberating. One company, United Record Pressing, just moved to a new facility to increase its capacity by 50 percent and roughly 45,000 records per day.
Says White, “It’s kids getting real records in their hands and listening to them, and starting a whole new trek down some other path that’s not digital, not invisible, not disposable. The overwhelming goals of my life are to create community, create family, create scenarios where things get better and last a long time. Create them!”
L. Ron Hubbard famously wrote in 1951:
“A culture is only as great as its dreams, and its dreams are dreamed by artists.”
When an artist’s dream merges seamlessly with commerce, creativity and prosperity can result.
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