Whether you own a record player or rely on streaming channels to access your favorite music, vinyl records have made an enormous resurgence since the early 2000s.
When it started pressing in 2017, vinyl was already in high demand from folks of varying age groups. Its popularity now far surpasses the generation from which it first emerged in the 1930s and 40s, as well as amongst the boomer generation. Millennials and Gen X-ers, who were more or less raised on cassette tapes and CDs, made up more than half of the $15 billion in sales recorded in 2021.
“There was an upswing, and a lot of people knew it,” Snodgrass said of the demand for vinyl in the past decade.
Loosely known as a record label, Hand Drawn Records began as an artist-centered collective in North Texas, spanning roughly from Denton to Austin. When it started winning local awards for its work with artists, Snodgrass said the company began to ask what the music industry really needed.
Demand pointed toward vinyl, but Hand Drawn Records also observed a need for transparency in the production and distribution of music. This quality isn’t necessarily present in streaming and downloading services. While CDs can reproduce a polished-sounding studio recording, vinyl’s analogue format captures the closest reproduction of one. For many, this creates a more personal listening experience.
Recording artists are aware of vinyl’s ability to produce organic sound better than other media. Most studio albums have been recorded on vinyl even during periods when it wasn’t as popular. Although CDs were the king of distribution in the early 2000’s, albums like Britney Spears …Baby One More Time and ‘N Sync’s No Strings Attached also exist on vinyl. The fact these albums were pressed on vinyl in an era when vinyl sales were at their lowest attests to the timeless quality of its sound.
Up into the 2010s, however, access to vinyl nowhere near matched the demand.
“Everyone wanted to press vinyl, but no one knew how,” Snodgrass said.
Not coincidentally, Jack White’s label, Third Man Records, asked the same question at the exact same time, introducing Third Man Pressing to Detroit in 2017. His recent public statement this past March implored music giants such as Sony and Universal to use their vast resources to build larger pressing plants.
Even with more and more small, locally owned plants such as Third Man and Hand Drawn Pressing cropping up, White emphasized it’s been impossible for these labels to keep up with supply chain issues, alone. Currently, lead times for vinyl production can take almost a year for these smaller presses.
“To be clear, the issue is not big labels versus small labels,” White said. “It’s not independent versus mainstream, it’s not even punk versus pop. The issue is, simply, we have ALL created an environment where the unprecedented demand for vinyl records cannot keep up with the rudimentary supply of them.”
Hand Drawn Pressing has been in lockstep with companies like White’s, sharing the mission to make vinyl more accessible to anyone who wants it. Hand Drawn Pressing recently doubled its capacity for production with new machines.
Hand Drawn Pressing now works with many of the label giants to make vinyl records for household names (it’s worth noting that well-known pop artists distributing vinyl records are a big factor in what has driven the demand so high). However, Hand Drawn Pressing is still proudly committed to indie and local bands.
Working with local bands such as Cut Throat Finches (who have a brand new single out on Spotify), Taylor Young Band, and Brandon Callies Band is still a favorite part of the process. Its production floor employs mostly working musicians; for many of them, this has provided a path further into the music industry.
For Snodgrass and the co-founders, it was also a way in.
“That’s really how it started,” he said. “We all just wanted to be in the music business and didn’t know how. So, this was how.”
With Hand Drawn Pressing, Snodgrass and his team now press around a million records a year. They can consider themselves a touchstone in the revival of vinyl both locally and nationally.