The key to Music On Vinyl’s prodigious reissue schedule is owning a globally renowned vinyl factory in the Netherlands. Chris Parkin discovers their pressing need.
Receiving the keys to a pressing plant is a bit of a boon when you’re in the business of releasing records. Just ask Jack White. His Third Man Records label jumped the pressing queue by setting up its own plant in 2017. Speaking after it opened, the label’s co-founder (and White’s nephew) Ben Blackwell sounded like a kid in a toy shop: “We make our own records. We run a plant. That’s badass.”
Third Man isn’t alone in living out the waxy fantasy of vinyl fetishists. Dutch reissue giant Music On Vinyl might not have the hipster cache that White’s label does, but its founders Ton Vermeulen, Jan van Ditmarsch and John Burgers have every right to feel equally “badass”.
Vermeulen started Music On Vinyl with music distributors Burgers and van Ditmarsch in 2008. Earlier than that, though, Vermeulen had made like Nostradamus and invested in a future that, at the time, few thought possible. In 1998, he took over the Sony/CBS pressing plant in Haarlem, Netherlands, and renamed it Record Industry.
Opened in 1958 by two oil-trading brothers, the plant grew into one of the biggest in the world, and in the 80s pressed 35 million copies of Thriller. But in the early 2000s, when vinyl had all but vanished from the music-industry lexicon, those halcyon-era stories sounded like folk tales.
Now, against all odds, its founding trio can be allowed a look of smug contentment. When their 2010 reissue of Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue flew off the racks, it confirmed something was afoot. And now, with the ability to manufacture releases at will, Music On Vinyl is arguably the most prolific reissue label in the game. Their long list of releases runs the stylistic gamut from The Afghan Whigs and Anastacia to Yellow Magic Orchestra and Warren Zevon.
Music On Vinyl’s approach to licensing – on a scale unimaginable to any other reissue label – rubs some romanticists up the wrong way. But, says the label’s Hugo van den Bos, sounding as if he’s used to fielding questions about the label’s motives, “we still release vinyl records for the love of it”.
Most releases are pet projects, he adds. Like a forthcoming Breaking Bad boxset put together with the show’s music supervisor Thomas Golubic. It probably helps the label’s workforce, too, that there’s music for every conceivable taste.
Terry Riley’s In C and Tanita Tikaram’s Ancient Heart are set to join a catalogue featuring Spectrum’s album of narco-drone Highs, Lows And Heavenly Blows and records by metal band Biohazard.
Despite their passion for putting out records, though, Music On Vinyl’s superabundant release schedule means van den Bos is asked one question fellow pressing-plant-owning label, Third Man, is never posed. What do they cut their records from?
“We use the best audio available. We receive and use different kinds of masters: analogue tapes, original metal parts, lacquers cut from analogue tapes, and high-res digital files,” he explains, before adding: “Music On Vinyl does not use CDs as masters.”