His speech is met with whoops and cheers. “Everything about this neighborhood, to me, seems like the perfect place for the renaissance and the rebirth and the regrowth from the ashes that Detroit’s going to rise from,” he tells the crowd, echoing the motto of the Detroit flag (and lyrics from his track “Lazaretto”).
But past the area where White stands onstage, past a hallway lined with tricolor, liquid-filled and rose-petal records, is Third Man’s solution to making Detroit rise from the ashes. At the back of the store is an entrance to what is soon to be a 10,000-square-foot vinyl record-pressing plant — one of less than two dozen in the United States, and a few dozen around the world. A child rides around the expansive yellow floor on a token-operated mechanical elephant, circling a sign that says, “Coming soon! The Third Man Vinyl Pressing Plant.” Less than a week ago, the former parking garage was still in raw shape, but crews have been working around the clock to have it ready and painted — black and yellow, of course, with twinges of red — in time for the store’s grand unveiling.
While the pressing plant isn’t functional yet (eight custom Newbilt presses are en route from Germany), the goal is to eventually press records on a 24/7 basis. There are no current plans to incorporate a lathe for cutting masters, but it’s also not out of the picture. “The pressing plant could triple our employees,” says Ben Blackwell, Third Man’s co-founder who handles most of the label’s vinyl manufacturing and distribution. He believes there’s potential for up to 30 industry jobs, which will help bring manufacturing back to the Motor City. “There’s a whole bunch of people in Detroit who have history and job experience in plastic molding — that feels opportune, that feels right.”
It’s the first Detroit pressing plant to launch since 1965, when family-operated Archer Record Pressing opened its doors. The business has been a staple in the Detroit music community for decades: It was where the Gories pressed their first record, and where many techno labels turn for product. But a spike in demand has left Archer backed up and behind for months, a similar problem faced by Nashville’s United Record Pressing, Third Man’s current go-to. “There are more customers than suppliers,” says Blackwell, who notes Third Man has no intention of taking business from Archer. (Third Man initially offered to buy out Archer, but was turned down. Current owner Mike Archer declines to comment.)
With a shortage of time and availability to make records, the resurgence of vinyl — up 51 percent in sales in 2014 — has produced a strong need and opportunity for more pressing plants to open; four others have opened in the United States this year alone. Pausing for a moment, Blackwell considers the outcome of Third Man and Archer existing side-by-side in Detroit. “I never really thought about what that means in terms a bigger scale,” he says. “We like to create things that don’t exist, so this falls in line with everything we’ve believed in and operated under since day one.”