Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When an Acetate and a Lathe Love Each Other Very Much: a Tour of United Record Pressing

Posted By on Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 7:11 AM

"Mommy, where does music come from?"

"Well, Johnny, you see, there's this place called United Record Pressing, and it's in Nashville...."

If you've been meaning to have "the talk" with a youngster who still thinks that music is made on the internet webs, then maybe the two of you should watch this video together. It's got some of that wonderfully corny old footage explaining the amazing "world of stereophonic sound," interspersed with a video tour of our local record factory--including a view of the room where Hank Jr. had his 16th birthday party and an explanation of the surprising way that racism affected the way United was built.

Now, at one point, the question comes up as to whether or not making vinyl records is a "dirty" process--in the environmental way, that is. This gets brushed aside rather quickly and isn't followed up. I suppose that the manufacture of vinyl, like any petroleum product, will be dirty insofar as it requires oil to make and oil to transport. But are digital files that much cleaner, in the grand scheme of things? The web nets require servers. Lots of them. Google alone has multiple server farms, estimated to contain some 450,000 servers, all of which require electricity to run (possibly coal-powered electricity) and climate-controlled environments in which to operate. Not to mention the metals and silicone that go into the manufacture of the computer components themselves, and the waste produced as machines age out and hit the scrap heap, often in developing countries. And so on.

Wait, where was I? Oh, yeah. Records are made in Nashville, a labor of true love.

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