Record Store Day: This is what happens inside a vinyl factory

     By Steve Holden

04/2016 BBC UK

A sleepy village outside Prague does not seem the obvious location for a key player in 2016's music industry.

But Lodenice is home to one of the world's largest producers of vinyl. GZ Media is now pressing two million records a month. We were given a tour of the site ahead of Record Store Day, which has helped fuel the vinyl comeback. "Vinyl is back. People love vinyl," CEO Michal Sterba told Newsbeat at his factory, set up in 1951. 

"Record Store Day is a celebration. It's an opportunity to think how beautiful the product is."

The production of vinyl is something that's hardly changed here in four decades.

Most records are put manually into a press and every piece of vinyl is packed into a sleeve by hand.
"Some of the machines are 40 years old. It's the old pressing. It's the old technology," says Sterba.

So how is it made?

The first stage is the mastering - creating a copper plated master.
In individual studios, an artist's album is played into a machine which uses a diamond stylus to cut grooves in a plate.

Everything is done is real time - there are no files swapped here so employees listen to every genre imaginable.
When we visit, some harmonious thrash metal is being inscribed onto the plate.

The next stage is to create moulds, known as "stampers", from which the records are mass produced.
The process - called galvanics - involves putting the masters into an electro-forming bath.
A layer of nickel forms on the copper which is then separated, washed and dried. This sheet of metal becomes the stamper.

One master makes several stampers which then produces thousands of vinyl records.

Inside the pressing room

The heart of the factory is the pressing room - it's hot, it's noisy and employees work at lightning speed on individual presses.
We watch as squidgy tubes of vinyl plastic come out of a machine, much like icing a cake. The plastic is squashed slightly to look like a pancake before being put into the main press.

This is what the vinyl looks like before it's pressed

It's here that the stamper is imprinted onto the vinyl to create the grooves of the record. Afterwards, the disc is placed onto another machine which cuts the edge to create a perfect circle. There are a couple of automated machines but the bulk of the work here is done by hand.

So what about the artwork?

The final stage is the packing, where employees wearing gloves put the records into an inner sleeve, then an outer sleeve, ready to be shipped abroad.
Every record is packaged, by hand, individually.

Checks are made on both sides of the vinyl to look for scratches or imperfections. During our trip, we saw records being produced and boxed by Guns N' Roses, Johnny Cash, the Black Keys and Oasis.

GZ Media says it produced 18 million records last year, roughly 65,000 per day. "I would say the goal that Record Store Day set up to make more popular has happened already. "I don't see that it has as much importance now. People are releasing their records on vinyl regularly the whole year round, rather than focussing on one specific day.

"It's a nice symbol. It's like Mother's Day - you would love your mother regardless of whether it was Mother's Day or not. It's the same with Record Store Day."