For the past year a Middlesbrough pressing plant has been helping artists make records, and there is no sign of demand slowing down

It only received its first pressing machines on Christmas Eve last year, but Press On Vinyl is well on its way to becoming the biggest manufacturer of vinyl records in the UK, already churning out about 3,000 a day and hoping to double that next year.

The popularity of vinyl has soared in recent years – 2022 is expected to be yet another year with the highest sales since the early 1990s – and manufacturers have been unable to cope with demand. Taylor Swift’s Midnights has sold 80,000 copies on vinyl, more than any other album this century, helping to increase vinyl sales above those of CDs for the first time since the 1980s.

“The demand for vinyls has increased dramatically in the last eight years, and existing plants haven’t managed to grow in tandem with it and new plants haven’t been able to set up in time,” said David Todd, who co-founded Press On Vinyl, in Middlesbrough, with Danny Lowe last year.

There’s only a very small amount of capacity in the UK, and there’s also a massive lack of capacity worldwide. Plus, there were only two [vinyl-pressing] machine manufacturers in the world and they couldn’t keep up either. So, we decided to step in and see how we could help.”

The pair previously ran a record label and promotions company to help local artists, and during the downtime of the pandemic they came up with a “crazy business plan” to set up their own pressing plant to help smaller artists monetise their music through vinyl.

“The lack of capacity means lead times are quite long, most pressing plants are quoting six to 12 months, and that’s probably the biggest problem,” said Todd. “Artists of all levels are suffering from that, but especially grassroots and emerging artists find it even more difficult to get records pressed.”

There are only a handful of pressing plants in the UK, which means a large proportion of vinyl records sold in the country are imported from Europe. There is now a third vinyl pressing machine manufacturer, and Press On Vinyl received only the fourth machine in the world to be produced by that company.

They have faced a steep learning curve to become fully operational, and now do all three stages of the vinyl production process in house – the master cutting, making the stamp through an electroform process, and the pressing.

“We had a lot on our plate to try to figure it all out. Each one of those is a completely different department, different skillset, different materials and different machines,” said Todd. “We took on a lot but I’m really proud of the people from this local area who have all thrown themselves in the deep end and learned some really difficult skills.

“It also means we have a good foundation of skilled staff who can help us grow to meet demand.”

A spokesperson for theBritish Phonographic Industry (BP!), which publishes official UK music consumption figures, said vinyl LPs had enjoyed “a remarkable 15th year of consecutive growth” since the format’s low point in 2007.

BPI analysis of official charts data shows that eight of the top 10 vinyl albums of 2022 to date were released this year, whereas in 2017 only three of the top 10 vinyl albums were released that year (with the rest by artists such as the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac).

“In the early days of the vinyl revival there was evidence of a novelty factor – students would sometimes buy vinyl to frame it as decoration or to play on inexpensive turntables. But now we are seeing more and more fans, including millennials and Gen Z, who see the value of investing in high-end audio systems,” the BPI said.

As audiences for vinyl only continue to grow, Press On Vinyl hopes to expand with them. The company is also in the process of setting up Fair Sounds, an online platform that allows smaller bands and labels to fund vinyl releases through pre order sales.

“We want to break down the financial barriers of releasing on vinyl, so this way we can press exactly how many records they want, and it doesn’t cost them anything,” said Todd.

“All sectors of the music industry are wanting vinyl at the moment and we want everyone to have access to that, so fans can get what they want, and artists can continue to grow.”

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