Bolachão, known only as vinyl, Long Play, or even abbreviated, for the acronym LP, was born in the 40s and lived through the golden years until it was completely replaced by the CD in the mid 90s. the end of the story. Since then, a lot has changed – from the factory to the record.
The vinyl record or famous cookie is still celebrated in Brazil, on April 20, “Dia do Disco”. And, more than that, it is still manufactured in the country. I found two factories within our border limits and some small workshops.
According to Vinyl Pressing Plants, which is a collaborative site, in Brazil, there are five manufacturers of vinyl records – two factories in the industrial standard and three workshops. By way of comparison, in the United States, records account for 81 sites aimed at cutting and / or pressing LPs. Worldwide, there are over 300, according to the platform.
Polysom - The fantastic cookie factory
João Augusto, former artistic director of record labels and today owner of Deck (ex-Deckdisc) and consultant for Polysom - the largest record factory in operation in Brazil – recalls that there were dozens of manufacturing units spread across the country. A number that was reduced to zero, when Polysom itself, in Rio de Janeiro, closed its doors at the end of 2007.
Orphaned in the production of LPs, João agreed to revive the factory to serve the artists of Deck. According to the producer, it was three years of mistakes and successes until he was satisfied.
“Polysom was reactivated in 2009, due to a need for our Deck artists. But, when we took the factory, we had no idea of two things: that vinyl would grow so much and another that it would be so difficult to make vinyl ”, he says.
The factory opened in 1999, but went bankrupt in 2007. In mid-2008, João started feasibility studies that resulted in the acquisition, which officially took place in 2009. But, it was only between 2011 and 2012 that “quality vinyl” came , after touring the world seeing how old and new LP factories worked.
“This whole research demanded travel all over the world, help from several factories and friends that we made along this path. Basically, we had this support to learn. Imagine me, director and artistic producer, having to learn about chemistry, mechanics and hydraulics? ”, He recalls.
In these travels around the world, João got to know new details and processes. One of them is the use of software to manage the minutes on each side, with a focus on utilization, adjusting the grooves to fit the most appropriate total of minutes.
The program in question is the Zuma Disk Mastering Computer. At Polysom, however, this is entrusted to those who call the magicians’ class: 14 employees, including veterans and young people.
“Maybe, I wouldn’t even like to have Zuma. Our cutter, William Carvalho, has an intuitive capacity and enormous technical development. It is up to him to make this judgment and I trust him too much in this distribution ”, he defends.
Mistrust reigns over new machines. The feeling, according to João, is that they are not resistant enough. Lighter – unlike the sturdy iron of 1950s machines – they seem to perish faster. When a press hits, it’s 100 tonnes on the LP’s mass. Furthermore, he trusts man more than machine.
“Outside, most factories have presses that they call automatic, there is no operator putting dough, taking vinyl. This is done automatically.
We don’t, we have the operator doing all of that.
What makes us gain a little bit in quality, because the operator, just looking, already identifies if there is a problem with the disc or not ”, he says.
140 or 180 grams?
For João, the discussion is overrated. Except for unusual productions from the 70s – when during the Oil Crisis, due to lack of raw material, discs were produced with 100 grams and a soft aspect like paper – today, it is more of a tactile issue.
Strictly speaking, it is the depth and width of the grooves that, when correct, guarantee quality. What changes the sound or the level (volume) of a recording, is the greater spacing between grooves to allow for greater modulations, not exactly or just its weight. Polysom, to meet customer demand – who for different reasons choose LPs with 140 or 180 grams – produces and accepts orders from both.
“Today, 180 gram vinyl is placed as if it were the ideal record. The ideal for me is 140 grams. It spends less oil and also consumes less energy. People thought about 180-gram discs, which is silly. A disc of 140 grams when done well is very balanced in every way ”, he explains.
Balanced discs, not necessarily lighter, end up benefiting production on an industrial scale since, although the difference in pressing marks seconds, for a factory operating at the limit, it gives more agility. With thinner masses, less material is used, making the disc lighter and a little cheaper, cooling PVC faster. In the past, added to that, production was faster because it was also more uncompromised. Focused on quantity, not exactly on quality.
But, being vinyl a visual, auditory and also tactile experience, the heavy LP attracts.
Polysom has a series that sells in Brazil and abroad called Classics in Vinyl. The factory licenses works by giants of Brazilian music and presses copies using the original audios. The ¼-inch tapes, however, as they left the studio, would sound outdated to the ears of fans who have already become accustomed to CDs.
To resolve the issue, the tapes are remastered, transforming from analog to digital – with a very high conversion rate of 96 kilo-hertz – before being recorded on the discs. The result is to have the chance to buy the reissued copy of Weather Forecast (1973) or South Wind (1972), by Marcos Valle.
The covers are reproductions of the originals. And although the photolithography has already been lost or is no longer available, a high-precision scanner is responsible for reproducing the prints of the envelopes in the dimensions of 31 × 31 cm as accurately as possible.
“This is perhaps one of the most arduous jobs. Because, in fact, we depend on collectors to lend the records and they are very rare records.
Some were very ill-advised to lend, we had to pick it up and return it at the same time, sometimes the guy had to go with him … he has it like a relic.
It is to take, photograph and return it ”, he details.
The stories are great … There were people who gave up on loan at the last minute, another charged rent for a temporary assignment. Collector’s heart is very sensitive.
“But what was really serious was that, once, we caught one that went astray. We still don’t know where it ended up today. It wasn’t a very rare record, it was a Tony Bizarro record. The disc was from [Rodrigo] Gorky, producer at Pabllo Vittar.
He’s a sweetheart. To this day, we apologize for losing the record, ”he recalls.
I went after Gorky and he confirmed the story! The album was the “That Winter” (1977). The producer got another LP, but not with the perfect cover as it was. The copy was part of the collection of a journalist, who handled little. At the time, CBS used thin paper to wrap the discs, few of which can withstand the weather. John was forgiven!
Other difficulties encountered in reissuing old LPs in the classic series, involve the absence of machines (tapes) to play certain media and recover audio in the best possible quality and the lack of authorization from record labels or even from the family of musicians and photographers – many because already died or are out of the country.
The largest vinyl factory in Brazil
Polysom works on several fronts: the Vinyl Classics line, which has already released more than 200 licensed titles, releases at the request of record labels, lots of vinyl clubs – Noize and Três Selos – and LPs pressed for independent labels and artists.
All of these customers are vying for places on the factory’s production line, which grew by 26% in 2020. Polysom consolidates itself with more than 150 thousand records made each year. Which is little compared to factories in Europe, which make the same amount per month.
“Here is a manufacture.
We are a group of artisans making quality vinyl, but much longer. Today there are three machines for LPs and one for compact ”, he points out.
Modesty leaves, John works miracles. The LP is a sum of several processes to reach a completely analog result. In all stages, it involves acoustics, chemistry, mechanics, hydraulics, packaging, commercial and marketing. It is a lot of detail and, when you have had a factory in operation for 12 years, it is synonymous with success.
Vinil Brasil – “I found the presses in the junkyard”
Michel Nath, musician, DJ and owner of Vinil Brasil, fell into the clutches of the album in 2014. The date coincides with the year of release of his own album, Solar Soul, when he identified a need to have a record factory in the country, more precisely in São Paulo.
“I believed that Brazil was lacking in this service and that it had a much higher demand than that which the only factory at the time had the capacity to supply”, he says.
He assumes, however, that at no time did he sit down to draw up a business plan or study market or record industry trends. One morning, at breakfast, he decided that he was going to open a vinyl factory and that’s how it happened.
Those who came to circulate through the old LP factories – such as Continental and RCA – remember that the machine parks housed dozens of presses or, even, more than one hundred of them. Vinil Brasil owns seven, but only two are in operation.
“I found these presses in the junkyard.
And that was the starting point for me to understand that, perhaps, with these old presses, I had the opportunity to set up a factory ”, he recalls.
From meeting machines at the junkyard to pressing discs, it was a long way. It took a year of trials and tests before it started. Between 2015 and 2016, the task was one: take the machines out of a deep coma and study to learn how to make LPs.
“I was just a musician, a poet, a composer, a DJ and I always had a professional and affective relationship with music and with the object of the vinyl record.
I found the presses, but I didn’t have the knowledge that I have today, after six years taking care of the factory, from a technical, administrative and human point of view, taking care of the people ”, he points out.
The factory started to press in 2016, and then it was a few more months of cutting. It is one thing to be able to press some LPs with quality, another to make thousands of LPs with the same quality and consistency. Marco that arrived in the year 2017 and remained.
“The third press is coming,” he promises.
Lack of labor
It is difficult to find professionals for the demands of the factory, which brings together a team of 15 people – a mix of the old guard who worked in the music industry in the 90s and who are still active, people from the technological manufacturing world who did not necessarily work in the field of disc and new professionals that are coming.
“Most of these technicians stopped working with this in the 90s and were already masters. I went to look for these people and they died ”, he laments.
About talents, he points out names.
“Today, at the factory, we have someone important who is our acetate cutter. A dear friend, Arthur Joly, who has a huge knowledge, affection and relationship with music ”, he said.
Nath sees the factory as a major challenge in several aspects: technological, economic, human and cultural. Using your words, it is a very crazy equation. Within a much more complex universe than people imagine, he points out that the account of importing equipment, bringing and setting up a factory from scratch does not close – due to issues such as high tax rates and a total lack of technical assistance for this machinery.
“Vinil Brasil only exists because there is a person like me who is crazy and passionate about music and sees it as a personal mission. Love is what moves me to take care of the record factory, but I also take care of my feet.
We are aware that we are making history ”, he acknowledges.
I asked Nath about how many vinyls the factory has been delivering over the years and the answer was a curious story. In 2018, a year after production started, the owner of the property where Vinil Brasil was located filed an eviction action. The order went to Justice and the change took effect in 2019. It was a year operating at one address and reassembling the factory at another, in Bom Retiro, where they are in their own building.
When the tires had to be changed while the car was running, production fluctuated. Already well established, it was the pandemic that brought challenges. However, Vinil Brasil estimates that, under normal conditions of temperature and pressure, it is able to produce 10,000 to 12,000 records per month.
The Vinil Brasil brand, in addition to giving the factory its name, also houses an independent label, a record store (the same ones they manufacture), as well as a subscription LP club.
MGS and Vinyl-Lab
The world of vinyl does not live by press alone. There is an even more artisanal method, in which the disks are cut individually, one by one: the Lathe Cut. The format can be Hi-Fi or Lo-Fi, but quite different from the process of industrial wafers in the press.
A work of art that touches
This type of recording is called Lathe Cut. It is not a threat to factories or a direct substitute for pressed industrial vinyl. It is what many call “vinyl art”. In the case of a 5 minute recording, 5 minutes will also be the required production time for each unit / side – apart from other delivery processes. Therefore, each copy takes time to be made the same as the previous copy.
You must be wondering what the benefits are. Certainly, exclusivity is at the top of the list, given that the minimum quantity can be just one unit and using different materials. There are endless opportunities for creating one-to-one.
This is the case of two other record workshops also mentioned on the Vinyl Pressing Plants map: Mammoth Green Studios (SP) and Vinyl-Lab (SP) that told their stories.
Vinyl Lab originated in 2012, with Giordano Bruno (Bruno NGS), also known as DJ Niggas, with a 1957 Neumann. At the time, it was still an ordinary cutting machine, focused on working with transparencies. After a lot of headaches looking for technicians, he called Arthur Joly, who invested as if it were his project – sold 30 synthesizers, traveled, took courses and put the machine to run.
The initial idea was to make dubplates. That is, work with the direct cut in the acetate. The current technique is similar to the dubplate, but directly on PVC, on permanent media. He says that the duo skipped the whole history of acetate and decided to make the cut directly on the vinyl record – and it worked! This makes each LP slightly different from each other.
Bruno already has six machines, including two from Vinyl Recorder, and currently offers vinyl cutting to order in São Paulo using his own recording process. Joly, now at Vinil Brasil, left the company in 2015 and focused on mastering.
Mammoth Green Studios
Mammoth Green Studios (or just MGS) is led by Vice Fiori, musician, luthier, studio technician and vinyl craftsman. He says that his discs are cut on the machine he works on, completely made by hand, and already delivered directly to the buyer.
The story is long, started in 2010, but took shape only in 2019. In these nine years, Fiori recalls that he was scammed by scammers and never received the first devices he bought. This generated debts and the musician had to dispose of his own studio in São Paulo, return to Piracicaba and start over from scratch. Since he was a child crazy about LPs, he reports that, like his colleagues at Lathe Cut, he did many tests until it worked.
The final kick was due to a sad story. With the promise of making a record for his older brother, he found himself speeding up the process due to his unexpected death in 2019. The promised record was delivered, and is in his arms, buried next to his brother. From there, it gathered the strength to start over and MGS went into gear. Today, he receives orders online and creates real “works of art that play music”.
However, they are not the only ones and certainly there are more vinyl workshops out there … The suggestion, as with any service, is to seek recommendations from former customers, listen to discs cut by suppliers and already deliver the mastered audio for vinyl.
It is worth remembering that everyone was very emphatic in saying that they do not produce bootlegs – a common term to refer to irregular copies of unreleased records, usually a show or TV radio show or even copies of original records (here, classified as piracy). Therefore, there is no use looking for them to record tracks that are not copyrighted or do not contain authorization from the label and / or artists.
In the world of Lathe Cut manual processes, it is the German company Souri’s Automaten, manufacturer of Vinylrecorder T-560, that stands out. Created by the brothers Ulrich “Souri” Sourisseau and Fritz Sourisseau. Wesley Wolfe, Souri’s partner in the United States, says that the first machine made by the Germans arrived in 1998.
However, about the number of machines sold since then, unrelated. “Less than you think, and more than you believe”, amuses himself, without revealing. It is speculated, however, that sales have already surpassed the thousands in the last 20 years.
Wolfe also believes that all competitors who have tried to market a machine like Souri’s – including the previous Vestax VRX-2000 Vinyl Cutter Machine, launched around 2005 – have failed. The factory sells not only the machine, but also the media ready to be cut in three sizes (7 ”, 10”, 12 ”and 14 ″).
“Each machine is 100% manufactured in Hosskirch, Germany. Each small spring is made by hand. It’s really impressive, it’s like being a luxury watchmaker, ”he says.
Vinyl Recorders cost a small fortune: 3,200 euros, without the record player (and taxes).
Buying one of these is not easy. In addition to the money, you need to travel, schedule the meeting, take the course (yes, the Souri’s course) and buy it. A long process that can take from six months to a year. Second-hand machines are left unsupported.
Global Music Report 2021
Accounting is confusing …
The Global Music Report 2021 of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), points out that there was a 23.5% increase in revenue from vinyl sales worldwide last year. The data were released within a scenario of a 4.7% drop in physical media in general, driven by the 11.9% drop in CDs.
Research that considers barcode-only sales, such as Nielsen SoundScan, to the US and Canada, ignore concert sales. And, IFPI data, although reliable, does not have local cutouts or consider independent labels.
In Brazil, there is no official LP sales count. Pró-Música – the only Brazilian entity that collects data and statistics from the local phonographic market – no longer counts sales of vinyl records in units, with very low numbers.
What we have is the annual production, being numbers from the factories themselves.
The little bag
All the perrengue that involves producing vinyl should be compensated when listening to it. However, at least here, this is not exactly what happens. Is the disc skipping? Is the rotation slower? Calm down… the problem, most of the time, is not on the disc.
From him, again, there are several videos on YouTube, on his own channel, explaining a series of details about record players. I could go on and on here, but Joly’s explanation is absurdly didactic and indispensable for new record collectors.
And how to choose a good record player? This is talk for another text …
Has today’s vinyl changed?
If you made it this far … you saw that yes, new records have quality. But, an old press makes good cookies. In general, the LPs produced today are made on a smaller scale and more carefully than when they were mass media and came out of the oven by the millions.
A new vinyl record, pressed in an industrial process, usually costs from R $ 120 to R $ 130, depending on the artist. A Lathe Cut can be doubled or more.
However, the cost of putting a vinyl factory in operation in Brazil today, however, seems incalculable and can change at any time due to the import of inputs, the exchange rate variation, the need to maintain the machines and the difficulty in finding qualified labor. It is a giant and expensive tetris game.
Honor your new vinyl, buy a good record player, a good set of speakers and be ready for an incredible sound journey. Don’t forget, run away from the briefcases!
From collector and crazy …
Faced with such an unusual scenario, those who no longer buy the idea of vinyl do not miss the opportunity to call collectors crazy. It is no different with manufacturers. But, with the rescue of the format, the critics are already changing their opinion.
“When I took the factory, everyone called me crazy. After a while, they started calling me smart, ”says João Augusto, from Polysom.
Although on the rise, like other industrial sectors, the vinyl industry suffers during the pandemic of the new coronavirus with the delay in the delivery of imported materials, the lack of inputs, the exchange rate of the dollar and the euro, in addition to the interruption of manufacturing activity. But, one thing they all promise: not to give up the LP anytime soon.
If it depends on that group, there will be vinyl records, yes!
Happy Disco Day!
“Dia do Disco” is a tribute to Ataulfo Alves, who died on April 20, 1969. Almost a decade later, in 1978, it was decided to dedicate the date to the composer. On August 12, however, it is celebrated in many countries of the world. The date is considered to be Thomas Edison’s official announcement of the invention of the first phonograph in 1877.
Where to press vinyl in Brazil?
Polysom is the oldest vinyl record factory in operation in Brazil and is located in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Compact presses, LPs and also produces K7 tapes. Accepts online quote requests. The minimum order for LPs and Compacts is 300 copies and for K7 they are 50.
Vinil Brasil is the second vinyl record factory in operation in Brazil that uses presses and is located in the state of São Paulo. On the website, it is also possible to request an online quote. The minimum order for LPs and Compacts is also 300 units. The factory does not work with K7s.