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Inside the Vinyl Record Manufacturing Process: Insights from Industry Experts at SXSW 2024
The vinyl record resurgence shows no signs of slowing down. With 17 consecutive years of growth, vinyl sales revenues in 2022 more than doubled the combined totals from 2015-2017.

Global vinyl retail sales are projected to reach $3.9 billion by 2025.
At the SXSW panel during the music conference, vinyl manufacturing experts provided a behind-the-scenes look at this booming industry. The panelists included Dustin Blocker (President of the Vinyl Record Manufacturers Association - VRMA), Patrick McCarthy (A to Z Media), Bobby Giles (Welcome to 1979 studio), and Michael Thomas (Echo Base).
The Manufacturing Process
Vinyl records start as pelletized PVC which is melted and extruded into "pucks." These pucks are loaded into a steam-powered press which heats and forms the record. After cooling, the record is trimmed to a perfect circle.

Records can be made in virtually any color by mixing compounds into the PVC melt before extrusion. Adding compounds after extrusion creates marbled, swirled or high-dispersion metallic effects. However, these decorative records tend to be noisier than single color pressings.

Each record is essentially a unique handmade creation due to variances in ingredient mixtures and manufacturing conditions. "You're bundling all of these ingredients into a press, and we're manufacturing something to a spec, but we're also effectively creating something that is art," said Michael Thomas.
Bobby Giles at SXSW 2024 | Photo from Instagram
The Vinyl Mastering Process
Before manufacturing, the audio must be mastered specifically for vinyl by lacquer cutting engineers like Bobby Giles. He explained, "Vinyl is a physical format, so you can only fit a finite amount of music on there."
Adjustments are made to limit low frequencies, high frequencies, overall levels and dynamics to accommodate the physical constraints of vinyl's grooves.
The Vinyl Supply Chain

As Dustin Blocker outlined, vinyl manufacturing involves a global supply chain of companies providing raw materials, lacquer cutting, plating, printing and more. The VRMA aims to foster collaboration, standardization, quality control and sustainability best practices among these interconnected entities.

Customization and Packaging
To stand out in the crowded vinyl market, Patrick McCarthy advises putting effort into creative packaging and customizations like "shaped discs, lenticular jackets, color vinyl, splatters, numbering, and specialized print effects."

Sustainability Initiatives
The vinyl industry is enacting sustainability measures like PVC recycling programs, adopting bio-vinyl made from plant-based compounds, lead-free vinyl, climate-conscious shipping and minimizing single-use plastics like shrink wrap.

The SXSW panel summary was created by Claude, at the request of a team member at
The vinyl record manufacturing revival is being driven by an industry prioritizing craftsmanship, customization and environmental responsibility in order to meet insatiable consumer demand for the vinyl experience.

With new pressing plants opening globally and continual process innovations, the vinyl boom shows no sign of slowing its groove.

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