Denver-based record company Vinyl Me, Please will build a state-of-the-art, 14,000-square-foot record pressing plant in the River North Art District to meet soaring demand in the $1 billion vinyl industry, officials announced Monday.
“It’s purely because we love Denver,” said CEO Cameron Schaefer in an interview with The Denver Post. “People might laugh at that, but it’s really true. We definitely had people pushing us like, ‘There are cheaper places you could build this.’ But that wouldn’t be as fun.”
Schaefer did not disclose the cost of the building, which will be located adjacent to mega-promoter AEG Presents Rocky Mountains’ multimillion-dollar venue Mission Ballroom on the 4000 block of Wynkoop Street. AEG executives built that venue from the ground up, opening it in 2019, in an expensive wager that the outer, heavily industrial edges of the district (it’s not a neighborhood, as Vinyl Me’s press release states) will increasingly fill with pedestrian traffic.
Vinyl Me, Please has similar designs, with a scheduled opening for its new plant later this year. The company’s growth has paralleled the vinyl industry at large, which has seen sales rise annually to last year’s $1 billion high mark, outpacing any other form of physical music media. In the U.S. alone, sales rose from 21.5 million units in 2020 to 41.7 million units in 2021, according to data from MRC Data-Billboard (formerly Nielsen-SoundScan).
Global demand also hit 300 million units of vinyl, falling well short of the capacity for producing it — which stands at about 150 million units, Schaefer said. Poor-quality products have also been infiltrating the market to meet that demand, and Vinyl Me’s new plant will work to raise those standards again.
Last year Vinyl Me, Please sold about 750,000 records, and has set a goal of selling 1 million this year. The service runs $33 to $43 per month, or about $500 annually, and features exclusive pressings and re-pressings, box set re-releases, podcasts and more — often on colored, limited-edition and highly collectable vinyl. In recent years it has brokered deals with iconic jazz labels and rights-holders for releases from Willie Nelson and The Grateful Dead, and expanded its main subscription-service genres into hip-hop and country.
“A lot of people are like, ‘Are you a label or a retailer or what are you?’ Schaefer said. “The answer is we’re a music company, but we probably blur a lot of those lines. We rally around trying to provide a tangible, transcendent experience with music.”
Vinyl Me, Please plans to lease the property under its building, although Schaefer declined to describe the terms, the financing behind the construction, or the company’s annual revenue. They’re advertising it as “audiophile-grade,” which translates to state-of-the-art equipment run by industry greats and noted perfectionists, Schaefer said. In this case, that means veteran record-maker Gary Salstrom, with Grammy-winning artist and producer David Rawlings joining as partner and Chief Groove Officer.
According to an architectural rendering, Vinyl Me, Please will devote about one-third of its building’s space to a bar, retail area, listening lounge and other public-facing amenities, taking cues from boutique pressing plant/venues such as Third Man Records in Detroit (with whom Schaefer consulted before building this one, he said).
Notably, Vinyl Me, Please will offer tours of the record-making experience, and before- and after-concert appearances from artists playing at AEG’s Mission Ballroom. Vinyl Me, Please has no formal promotional deal with AEG Presents, he said.
Matt Fiedler and Tyler Barstow founded Vinyl Me, Please in 2013 at the outset of the vinyl boom as a subscription-based, record-of-the-month club. After moving to Colorado, they operated out of co-founder Matt Fiedler’s Boulder apartment, and later, a house in the Cole Creek neighborhood of Louisville.
“I’m pretty sure during those two years in (Louisville) people thought we were doing drug deals,” Schaefer said. “We had huge palettes of records showing up to be shoved into the garage, and friends coming at all hours of the night to help pack and ship.”
In 2018, the company moved to its current headquarters at 1752 Platte St. in Denver. Its 27 employees went remote during the pandemic, Schaefer said, and have stayed that way, with about half based in Denver and the other half spread evenly around the U.S.
Schaefer, who grew up in Laramie, Wyo., and graduated from Colorado Springs’ Air Force Academy, said he wants to open the vinyl world to everyone, regardless of their tastes. He knows “audiophile” can be an intimidating word, but Vinyl Me, Please sells as many pop and dance records these days as it does obscure jazz or indie rock.
“There’s still a very collaborative spirit in the industry, so the more high-quality records we can get out there and the more demand we can meet, the better it is for everyone,” he said.
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