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Vermont’s role in the Record Renaissance

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 6:31 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Inside a garage bay in Burlington, a fan keeps things cool. But what’s going on inside is making a hot comeback.

In here, the music never stops.

“We are one of 100 people in the world making records,” Justin Crowther said.

Located just off Pine Street, the Burlington Record Plant is a fully operating boutique record factory. Owner Justin Crowther runs the shop with just a few employees.

“I was always just fascinated with the mechanics of records,” he said.

Crowther opened the factory after he had an idea while checking out a friend’s record collection several years ago.

“If I could figure out how to make records in Burlington, it would probably take five jobs I had at the time and make one,” he said.

His music mind was right. Crowther hit the ground running, bringing in the equipment internationally and setting up shop.

“It seemed like there was a niche among this industry that seemed to have our name on it,” Crowther said.

Early on, the idea was to cater to underground acts. That quickly changed with demand.

“It hasn’t stopped. Even the pandemic, things... just spiked again,” Crowther said. “No longer underground, I guess, yeah.”

They stand out through vinyl variations in different colors, from candy apple red to sky blue to robot silver.

“It’s like a small miracle every time a record comes together,” Crowther said.

Maybe not a miracle, but they get some help from old equipment from the 1940s and ‘50s.

The process starts with pellets of PVC. Those pellets are heated up and look like a hockey puck. That puck then gets its groove on as it’s pressed under 140 tons of hydraulic pressure, cooled down, and then trimmed.

“So at this stage when he pulls it out of the machine, it’s playable,” Crowther said. “It’s pretty much ready to go.”

Each record gets inspected and is then packed and sent off.

You might find records at your local music store that were pressed at the Burlington Record Plant.

“We carry a lot of records, not just local, that they have pressed,” said Ian Doerner, who owns Burlington Records.

Doerner says we are in a record renaissance. It’s not just the classics that are being sold; new music is getting pressed.

“There is a huge demand for LPs these days,” Doerner said.

But why? In the age of streaming, you can play any song at any time from your mobile device.

Doerner says there are several reasons, like physically being able to hold the music.

“The physical thing is it’s present in reality, right? We can see it. We can hold it,” he said.

It’s also something of value to collect, adding a cool factor.

“It’s not all about value but it adds to it,” Doerner said. “You can’t sell something... you can’t hold something that’s sitting on the cloud.”

And maybe most important-- sound quality.

“Streaming services are fine,” Doerner said. “But if you have a decent setup, you’re not going to beat the sound quality that you get from it.”

This is because sound comes in waves.

“You’re getting the entire wave represented, coming through your speakers as opposed to little bits and pieces of that wave coming through on a CD... or Spotify,” Doerner said.

Back at the record plant, Crowther agrees.

“Social media, cellphones, everything that you’re part of right now-- to me, personally, there is something missing and there always has been,” he said.

And that keeps the records spinning.

“Every year is a record year, it’s true,” Crowther said. “Grateful to say that.”

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