The Gotta Grooves Records vinyl plant opened in Cleveland in 2009, just two years after the first ever Record Story Day in 2007. This was in the middle of Record Store Day’s rapid expansion. In 2008, about 300 record stores participated. In 2009, 1,000 record stores participated, and 1,400 were involved by 2012.
The seven years since Gotta Groove opened has seen consistent growth in the vinyl record industry, with Nielsen reporting that 16 million vinyl records sold in the United States last year.
One of only 28 record pressing plants in the United States, Gotta Groove helped contribute to the pile of roughly 270 Record Store Day exclusive releases. This year, Gotta Groove is responsible for producing 25,000 individual vinyl records in time for the event this Saturday.
But as Gotta Groove’s Quality Assurance Specialist Tim Thornton tells us, planning for Record Store Day is the same as planning for any other busy period. Though it accounts for 10% of the plant’s entire business for the year, the records produced only comprise 2% of its total orders. To Thornton, the most interesting thing about Record Story Day is just how uninteresting it really is.
Does Gotta Groove have any issues accommodating Record Store Day?
Record Store Day the first few years was such a mess. No one had ever had the big rush right after Christmas in like, February, March. That time was normally never really all that busy. All of a sudden, everyone has got these orders and everything.
A few years ago it was just a mess because they would start advertising Record Store Day, and people would be like, "Oh crap, Record Store Day. I should do something for Record Store Day." And that is kind of what happened the first few years.
But now, as long as there is not a lot of waffling back and forth, our biggest issue with Record Store Day scheduling usually ends up being something [that happens here at the plant].
Are there any ways that the demands of Record Store Day affect production?
We did one higher profile thing, and it had some gnarly typo on the jacket. This was a live recording from the '70s, I do not want to get too specific about it. Usually, you could be like, “Oh well, this is wrong, let’s go back and redo it.”
But Record Store Day stuff will just get pushed through. There will be typos, or we’ll run out of labels, so the yellow copies of a record will have blank labels instead of the labels that say the track listing. It’s like “We have to make the decision now!” because Record Store Day is the hardest hard deadline you can have.
What’s the strangest thing you had to press for Record Store Day this year?
The weirdest thing is the most confidential record — can’t talk about it!
The stuff that I have seen a lot this year is the trick cut. You put the needle down in one spot so it’s playing one song, and you put the needle right down in the groove next to it and it plays a different song.
It’s just our regular customers who are really doing the fun, innovative stuff. The Record Store Day thing is more just like, "Oh, this is a movie with the word 'blue' in the title, so it is going to be on blue vinyl," you know? You can just tell that the Record Store Day releases are for your older, richer buyers. There’s a lot of reissues — that sort of thing.
Are there any notable reissue trends this year?
I would say if anything sets this year apart from other years, it’s that people are all about soundtracks right now. It’s like all soundtracks, scores for studio movies that I have never even heard of.
You know, I look them up on IMDb and we are doing scores for a bunch of, like, 5.9–star movies on IMDb. It’s wild how many we have to do! I don’t know what kind of person buys soundtracks on vinyl, but something about soundtracks and scores and Record Store Day is a weird correlation I don’t understand yet.
So it sounds like Record Store Day is just another part of your production calendar now.
It has just kind of become part of the year. I would say, if anything now, if it just went away, it would be just as big of a shock to our system as to when it came.
So much of the whole vinyl pressing thing revolves around the knowledge that, “Okay, in March and February, we are going to be pressing a ton of Record Store Day stuff.” But then if all of a sudden it was gone…
What I fear is that [Record Store Day] would just go away entirely. I guess we’ll see how that goes.
It seems like Record Store Day is related to the growth of the vinyl market in general.
Right. And it’s tough for me to gauge the market because we opened a little less than eight years ago, and we’ve seen nothing but growth. We’re dealing mostly with a growing business, and we’re a business that just keeps getting bigger because we’re good at what we do. It’s honestly tough to tell if there’s more Record Store Day titles or if we’re doing better.
Back in the day, I’d hate [the Record Store Day boom] because I’d be working extra hours making so–so records. But now it’s just a reality. Oh, in the beginning of the year we’re going to press some boring records, and I’ll get some overtime and it’ll be nice.
And then, in the summertime, we’ll deal with heat–related issues.
I don’t know if it’s the big juicy news story you want to hear, but Record Store Day has just become a brick in what we do.