By early next year, Oakland will be home to new a record pressing plant, the first of its kind in the city since the Victor Records plant closed in 1935.
Second Line Vinyl has ordered a new vinyl record press, which is expected to arrive by February of 2018, according to Second Line CEO Zane Howard. The company plans to buy five more presses by the end of next year. With six presses working full time, Howard estimates the plant, called Bump Town, will be able to manufacture 2 million records a year.
The new press couldn't come sooner. There's currently about a dozen vinyl pressing plants in the U.S., and for smaller, independent labels, it takes an estimated four to six months for an order to be filled. And records continue to post year-over-year sales gains, despite articles predicting the end of the "vinyl boom."
"If you Google 'end of vinyl boom,' you'll see that an article with that exact sentence has been published every year for the past five years," Howard says.
Howard, 44, worked for Del Monte Foods in branding and product development before quitting to start Second Line Vinyl in July 2016. A longtime music fan, Howard says he was always looking for an opportunity to follow his passion. After buying and listening to a vinyl single from the band Drag The River, he says, he was reminded of what made him love the medium so much. It not only ignited a desire to collect records, it gave him an idea for a new business.
"When I saw that vinyl manufacturing was coming back, and did some research, I found out there was really no modern manufacturer of vinyl records. I thought there was a big opportunity there," Howard says.
With Second Line Vinyl, Howard doesn't want to focus solely on manufacturing records. His company plans to open Bump Town in one of the long-dormant factory warehouses on Mandela Parkway in West Oakland -- a throwback to the city's past as a manufacturing hub for the west coast. Within the 40,000-sq. ft space, Howard wants to build a one-stop-shop for independent labels wanting to press records. The process for making records involves many steps, such as mastering, cutting lacquers and plating, and few record plants offer all services in-house. Piper Payne, Second Line's Chief Product Officer, currently runs Neato Mastering in San Francisco, and is expected to provide mastering, lacquer cutting and quality control when the plant is fully operational.
"The idea is to add the lacquer-cutting and plating in house, so we can control the whole process. It gives us not only control over quality from end-to-end, but in controls the timing of it and the cost," Howard says.
Howard says Second Line is also looking to develop new materials for record production that are cheaper, lighter and safer for the environment than vinyl. They've already developed a new, more cost-effective process for manufacturing picture discs.
The company also plans to convert a section of the large warehouse space into a live music venue. Howard says they want Bump Town to be a place where musicians can feel part of the Oakland community. ("Bump Town" is a combination of the Tower of Power album Bump City and "The Town," a local nickname for Oakland.)
"We wanted something that represented the vibrancy of the town and its music scene," Howard says.