Article by Tia Korpe
Europe has seen a massive increase in the demand for pressing. Most pressing plants currently have a waiting time of 4 months, some places for up to 6 months. RPM Records is on a mission to be the leading record pressing plant in Europe, with a turnaround time of a maximum of 3 weeks. And not only that, they want the production to be sustainable as well.
So how do they do it? I chatted with the CEO and Co-Founder Gudmundur Isfeld about their vision, and why sustainability and love of vinyl is one of the major factors behind their business and success.
The story begins in an unusual way. The three founding partners pitched their idea of RMP Records pressing plant on the Danish version of “Dragon’s Den”, a TV-reality show that co-sponsor aspiring entrepreneurs. They were awarded half a million Danish kroner (roughly 67.000 EUR) to kick start their vinyl factory pressing.
But before that, they struggled to get a bank loan when they in 2016 decided to get together and build a vinyl-pressing business:
“We are 3 guys who just really love vinyl, and have been collecting for years. One of the guys had a band and when they wanted to press vinyl in Europe, he couldn’t believe how long the turn-around time was, so he decided to buy his own vinyl press,” Gudmundur.
However, when he and the rest of the guys first started cutting vinyl – real-time pressing took a long time. Since the classic vinyl pressing machines recorded in real-time, 40 minutes of music meant 40 minutes of pressing time, also meaning that quality control was harder to handle.
This is when Gudmundur and the team discovered a new pressing machine produced in Canada.
The pressing machine WarmTone has optimised the original vinyl record press with a cutting-edge and eco-friendly water cooling system, fully-automatic workflow mode, low PVC spill statistics, ground-breaking online interface, and a 20 second cycle time on a vinyl record.
This basically means that the new machine can press up to 2800 records/day. RPM Records became the proud owners of this machine as one of the very first in Europe, in March 2018 and have the quickest delivery time in all of Europe with a maximum of 3 weeks. But more than quick turn-around time, what’s important to these guys, is the sound quality.
“Passion, love and attention to quality in music is our main goal while working with something we love. Our endless record collections have taught us a lot about how vinyl should sound – and how it should not. Contributing to our customers’ collections with carefully inspected records is something that makes us truly happy. To us, music is something that needs to be listened to, not shuffled through or skipped entirely. This is why we have chosen to devote ourselves to keeping the physical format of music alive.”
Vinyl sales have gone up 1500% since 2014, and the demand for pressing vinyl has exponentially grown as well. RPMs current customers are 50% Danish labels, independent artists, and others and the remaining 50% are European.
Their current turnaround time is 2 weeks, sometimes 4-5 days depending on how fast the customer might need the order. This means that we can deliver a pressing for an artist quicker than anyone else, but also for independent artists who rely on release dates.
I noticed that you collaborate with both major labels and social initiatives. What do those partnerships look like?
We did a really fun collaboration with Hus Forbi and the Danish artist Lukas Graham for Christmas in 2018, where we pressed 12.500 7inch copies that were instantly sold out, and the proceeds donated to the homeless in Denmark. Check out the different colour versions here.
So what makes the pressing sustainable and environmental-friendly?
Essentially we try to make the entire process of pressing environmental-friendly. This means that it’s not only the machine that already reduces waste by recycling all the water used, electricity generated and so forth. We also recycle the waste of each pressing process (which is 20%) plastic and i.e. instead of traditional scotch we use a scotch made of cardboard.
Why do you think Discogs is an important platform, also in terms of future sustainability?
Discogs is our Bible here at RPM. It is a great (and the only) way to keep track of almost every release in the world. For us, it can also be very useful to see i.e. what label has released what, our catalogue, new innovation in design etc. Regarding sustainably, Discogs has a very powerful voice, and if they would make blog posts of all of the new innovation to be sustainable in the vinyl business, then that would be a great way for everyone to know where to look to be up to date with all the newest ways to be as sustainable as possible.