This is a story about a birthday surprise. My friend Stephen (pictured) is a vinyl nut, so I decided to help him celebrate his birthday by taking him to United Record Pressing, which is here in Nashville near the baseball park. URP is the largest record pressing facility in the country, and I’d been told by someone that they did tours, so I called and found out that yes, if we called ahead and came down someone would be glad to show us around…for FREE!
I had no idea how much history there is in that building! We learned that before it was URP black record labels used it like a hotel. They would sleep there, hang out there, and have record release parties there. They did this because they weren’t allowed to stay in the nicer white hotels in Nashville. Thankfully for us, they kept all of the original furniture…
After we learned about all of that amazingness we were shown all of the different parts that are involved in making a record. On a table they had the master, the silver plate, the beads of different colored PVC, a big hunk of PVC with a label stamped on it, etc. I’d never seen everything laid out like that, and it was really cool.
Next we were shown the art department, where we saw all of the labels and stickers are made and stored (stickers for records I’ll probably just buy in 2 months), then the REAL machinery. My friends, these record pressing machines looked downright medieval. They were all probably 50 years old, at least, and some of them aren’t manufactured anymore. It was amazing to watch the vinyl records get physically pressed and have the edges trimmed, then to drop down into a pile of nice, pretty vinyl. Our mouths were watering for all of those beautiful records.
We then went to the building where all of the mastering occurs. There we were shown the process of creating a master, from the lacquer copy (there was a magnifying glass that allowed us to see not only the grooves in detail, but the music ITSELF), to that silver plate that contains the backwards image of the music, which is the mold used to press the vinyl into shape. The man who showed us this part was kind enough to give us both some killer coasters.
At the end of the tour we were also given two free bumper stickers that read “Do it on Vinyl.” It was a great tour, a hidden gem of Nashville, no doubt. I’m sure I’ll end up taking it again at some point. I highly recommend taking this tour if you’re interested in vinyl records or music history.
Well, this is probably my last scene report until Jan 2010. I hope you enjoyed reading is as much as I enjoyed writing it, and more than I enjoyed formatting it. Sheesh.