Independent Record Pressing For Independent Artists.
On many occasions, we are asked why we want to make vinyl records in the 21st century. We believe that the vinyl record format is the last physical medium embodying sound recordings that will live for decades to come. With a few exceptions in the late 1990s, records have been at the merch tables of most artists and bands for over 60 years. Given the science behind how a record works (a mechanical operation dragging a stylus through a groove catching information sometimes as small as 0.1 microns and translating it to audio), it is truly a marvel that the format works at all. But, following a careful and regulated manufacturing process, the record brings a unique listening experience that no other format has done in the history of mankind.
Not all records are created equal. Our mission is to produce the highest quality vinyl records possible from both a sonic and aesthetic perspective at a fair price; and strive to provide industry-best customer service. We love to make and listen to records. No matter the size of the order, we provide personal service and strive for same-day responsiveness to all email and telephone inquiries.
We pride ourselves on being The Artist’s Preferred Pressing Plant. What does this mean? Well, our reputation that we earned of being one of the highest quality pressing plants has enabled us to work closely with many artists who have direct control over their work, even when labels and management companies are involved. We enjoy working with folks who care as much about putting high quality records into the marketplace as we do, and frequently, the folks who care the most about this are the artists themselves.
A LITTLE HISTORY:
Gotta Groove Records opened up in 2009, and at the time, was one of the first new pressing plants to open in the United States in decades. It all started when Vince Slusarz left behind his long career with Kinetico in search for a new adventure. He acquired all of the machinery from Dynamic Sun Records (also known as Sun Record Pressing), a long-established pressing plant in New Jersey, when its owner had decided to retire. Vince, being a music fan and record head (he once operated a record store out of his college dorm room) had a plan to bring several high-skill manufacturing jobs to the core of the Cleveland city limits via vinyl record manufacturing.
Meanwhile, Matt Earley, who had been wholesaling vinyl records to indie record stores across the country for a bloodline of one-stops (starting with Campus Records, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio, which was acquired by Arrow/ATM Distributing in 2001, merged with Galaxy Distribution in 2007 to form EDGE Entertainment, and ultimately was acquired by Alliance Entertainment in 2010) was looking to launch his own record pressing plant. When calling around to pressing plants in the USA, he connected with the former owner of Dynamic Sun who told him “we just sold everything to somebody in Ohio yesterday!”. Sun’s owner would not reveal the identity of the investor, but after some sleuthing around, Matt was able to connect with Vince. The two met, and over the next year, made the decision to go into business together.
Through the course of GGR’s first five years of operations, it became the first completely vertically integrated vinyl manufacturing and distribution operation anywhere in the world. Gotta Groove is the only pressing plant where every step of the manufacturing process (lacquers, plating, pressing, label/sleeve/jacket printing, download hosting); as well as a crowdfunding platform, wholesale distribution services, and consumer-direct fulfillment are provided by a single company. Through the dedication and hard work of our employees (several of whom have been with us since the beginning), we have been fortunate enough to grow GGR into the pressing operation it is today.
ABOUT THE GOTTA GROOVE OPERATION:
Due to our “one-stop-shop” approach, our unparalleled proprietary quality control procedures, and our independent modus operandi, Gotta Groove Records is The Artist’s Preferred Record Pressing Plant. Click here to see some of the artists for whom we have worked.
Lacquering With Care:
“Lacquering” or “cutting” is the first post-mastering step in the vinyl manufacturing process. This is when your audio first becomes a physical, tangible form — being cut in the form of grooves via a record lathe onto a blank lacquer-coated disc (in the United States, all phonograph master disc cutting is done onto lacquers – vs DMM, which is still in use at some vinyl mastering facilities outside of the U.S.A.)
When you order an in house cut from Gotta Groove Records, you are receiving some of the most experienced and most attentive services available in the vinyl industry. Our mastering team consists of:
Well Made Music
Clint Holley, the owner of the Well Made Music studios, has been the resident lacquer engineer at Gotta Groove Records since 2009. Since then, he has cut well over 10,000 releases, including artists like St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Willie Nelson, Luna, Dave Alvin, and many others. Applying proven traditional techniques combined with modern technology while using two completely restored Neumann VMS-70 lathes, Clint oversees 90% of the 12″ lacquer work done at Gotta Groove Records. At the Well Made Music Studios, there is a one-of-a-kind floating floor upon which the lathe is set, which removes the ambient noises from cuts and any possibility of vibrations occurring in the cut itself.
Dave Polster is a vinyl mastering engineer at Well Made Music and a recording engineer based in Cleveland, OH. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Audio Production from Ohio University and is an active member of the Audio Engineering Society. He has been recording and mastering music for several years and has been fortunate to work alongside some of the brightest minds in the industry. Dave is a large proponent of vinyl records. He has been collecting vintage LP’s for over a decade. Due in part to his experience in the manufacturing end at Gotta Groove Records along with his experience as a vinyl mastering engineer at Well Made Music, Dave has in-depth, first-hand experience in the vinyl record production process. If you ever see a record with a “dP” inscribed near the matrix number between the run-out grooves, you now know where it came from.
Adam Boose started his career in 2000 at Cleveland, Ohio’s A to Z Audio Services, where he learned the finer intricacies of digital mastering for a wide array of styles and formats. In 2007, Adam began work at Iron Mountain Digital Studios in Pennsylvania, where he archived and mastered audio for the Universal, Sony, and Codigo record labels. Concurrently, Adam founded Cauliflower Audio, a high-end mastering facility in Cleveland and grew the studio in his spare time. After 5 successful years as a side business, Adam left Iron Mountain to focus on Cauliflower. It is at this point that he added lacquer cutting to his list of skills, under the guidance of Well Made Music’s Clint Holley. Adam currently splits his time mastering records and cutting lacquers at the new headquarters of Well Made Music & Cauliflower Audio at 78th Street Studios.
Rare Form Mastering
Greg Reierson, owner of Rare Form Mastering, oversees 90% of the 7″ lacquer work done at Gotta Groove Records. He has spent the past 33 years working in the audio industry with a primary focus on mastering since 1989. In that time he’s mastered more than 6,000 commercially released albums for a diverse group of local, national and international artists including Prince (R.I.P.), Keb’ Mo’, The Cure, Jonny Lang, Cyril Neville, Rita Coolidge, Bernard Allison, The Marshall Tucker Band, Tommy James, John Kay, Willie Murphy, Cloud Cult, The Honeydogs, Bruce McCabe, Dean Magraw, The Ocean Blue, fDeluxe, The Suburbs, Lorie Line and many others.
In the studio, Greg surrounds himself with a carefully assembled collection of old and new – from his vintage Neumann VMS70 record lathe and assortment of analog tape decks to everything the modern digital world has to offer. Greg has designed, built or modified much of the equipment used at RFM and spends time between sessions working on various electronics projects and satisfying his curiosities about music, sound, audio perception, acoustics and audio technology.
Dietrich Schoenemann, owner of Complete Mastering, has been a professional musician, sound designer and audio engineer for almost two decades. When Gotta Groove Records first opened, Dietrich was the “main guy” cutting lacquers. Over the years, he has continued to be involved on several projects with Gotta Groove, and continues to do so.
Chris Muth, owner of Taloowa Mastering, is a respected gear designer Chris Muth. Chris is a household name in the vinyl business – he is the “friendly neighborhood record lathe repairman” for the vast majority of cutting lathes operating in the United States, and therefore brings a unique skill set to the records he cuts for Gotta Groove Records.
When supplying digital masters, all of our engineers prefer 24 bit wav files for the highest fidelity (unless our customer requests another format, such as cutting from tape) – with a timelog for each side [click here for a sample of the proper format]. For convenient and fast previewing of your digital source audio on vinyl, we can provide test lacquer cut samples electronically (12″ orders only), or we can send traditional reference acetates for your approval.
For best results when submitting digital masters, we strongly recommend that you have them prepared specifically for vinyl by a seasoned mastering professional who is accustomed to working with vinyl. Our recommendations for this service can be found here, and we also provide remastering services that you can add when placing your order. However, with whomever you choose to work, we welcome direct professional and open dialogue with your mastering engineer on all cuts.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to cutting records. Every audio file we receive is cut during its own unique session, and care is taken to cut the lacquers in a way that is as close as technically possible to the source audio. Other considerations we take into account are potential pressing and plating issues we have found can be minimized with certain cutting techniques, depending upon the program material; as well as potential playback challenges.
As mentioned above, cutting from tape is an option, but please call us at (800) 295-0171 to discuss prior to submitting your order.
Attention mastering engineers — we would love to hear from you! Instead of relying upon our mutual customer to upload audio files when placing their order with us, we would strongly prefer to receive the files directly from you — along with any feedback on specific concerns you encountered with the client during the mastering process. Open-door communication will help all involved to make the best sounding records possible. When customers supply masters to us without direct communication from the mastering engineer who prepared them, the customer entrusts us to make professional judgments in how the audio should be cut. This works well for the vast majority of records that are cut in-house. However, it does always help when a mastering engineer uploads audio files directly to our website and contacts us directly to discuss them – particularly when special considerations need to be taken into account. We cannot stress our open-door policy enough.
Clint Holley & the Well Made Music Studios Lathe (located in 78th Street Studios in Cleveland):
“Record Plating” (which is technically electroforming, not electroplating) is the method used to make the metal parts which ultimately stamp the grooves into pressed records. The 2-step plating method is used by default for all standard weight and 7 inch vinyl orders, as well as 180 gram vinyl orders under 500 units. 3-step plating is the standard for all 180 gram orders of 500 units or more. You can also request 3-step plating for any order. (If none of this makes sense to you, no problem, just give us a shout at (800) 295-0171, or email us at email@example.com).
When you place your order with GGR, all plating costs are included in the order total, and we manage all attributes of the plating process for you. When you order in-house plating from Gotta Groove Records, you are receiving some of the most experienced and most attentive services available in the vinyl industry. Our plating team consists of:
Tom Gross is the owner of NiPro. His original training was at United Records where he stayed in what’s now the “Motown Suite” while training at the electroforming facility down stairs and in the building next door under the watchful eyes of Tom Ingram and Mike Simpkins. After training, Tom when back to Tempe Arizona to setup and start the electroforming department within the new pressing plant called Superior Records. Superior was a new facility with 4 new SMT, 7” double cavity presses and 8 SMT, 12” LP presses and was a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn and be a part of this new operation. Tom produced many of the new Motown metal masters that after approval, replications were sent to other records pressing facilities under the United Records umbrella for mass production.
In 2016, Nipro and Gotta Groove Records worked to develop one of the first “new technologies” in record stampers in several decades — the GrooveCoat (TM) stamper. GrooveCoat stampers have a specialized hardening coating applied after nickel formation, which dramatically increases the lifespan of the stamper, and reduces high frequency loss as pressing cycles continue over the course of manufacturing. This new stamper technology is still in its infancy, and additional testing is still being conducted. However, the results to date have been extremely positive, and there are several releases in the marketplace at this point which have benefited from GrooveCoat stampers including Paste Magazine’s Paste Quarterly Volume 1 vinyl sampler, and Son Volt’s Notes Of Blue LP (first pressing only).
QCA, Inc. (Queen City Audio)
Jim Bosken is the owner of QCA, a former vinyl pressing plant, as well as a CD/DVD manufacturer located in Cincinnati, Ohio. After Gotta Groove’s Matt Earley acquired some Europa Film plating gear from Australia in 2010, he sought out several electroformers in the state of Ohio looking for the right match to help launch Gotta Groove’s in-house record plating operation. He had practically given up the search when Andrew Hamilton (a mastering engineer in Cincinnati who rents studio space from QCA) tipped Matt that there was record plating gear sitting in the basement at the QCA building that once housed the Queen City Audio record pressing plant.
After a few phonecalls between Matt and Jim, and a few road trips (including one with a rented box truck containing Australian plating gear that almost broke down on the side of I-71), QCA and Gotta Groove worked together to launch in 2013 the first new record plating operation in several decades, located inside the QCA building in Cincinnati — the Gotta Groove Electroforming Lab. Bryan Dilsizian was hired by QCA to run the lab, and it has produced many of the metal parts used to press records at Gotta Groove since 2014.
RTI (Record Technology, Inc.)
Dorin Sauerbier is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable record platers in the industry, and he runs the RTI plating operation. Since 2016, Dorin and his team has electroformed many of the 12″ stampers used by Gotta Groove Records for its pressings. Dorin also has consulted with both QCA and Nipro in their respective plating operations, and continues to provide his expertise in the manufacturing process whenever it is requested.
Record plating is one of the most problem-susceptible processes in record manufacturing, so we cannot stress enough our preference to manage the plating process from the point of lacquer shipment to final quality assurance of the metal parts. Therefore, if you are supplying lacquers from a third party vs having your lacquers cut through GGR, it is extremely important that you place your order with GGR prior to having lacquers ready to ship, and have your engineer contact us directly before shipping lacquers out.
A Modern Vinyl Record Pressing Plant:
GGR has implemented some technology and processes which (quite possibly, although we can’t verify) have never been used on record pressing equipment anywhere in the world.
We use several fully automated Hamilton and SMT presses. In November 2016, we installed a new record pressing machine — a custom-built hybrid automated press (built in the USA by Record Pressing Machines, LLC) — it is the only such machine in use anywhere in the world. Finally, we have one manual (or “semi-automatic”) Finebilt press that we redesigned and rebuilt with 21st century technology added in Cleveland (we call it the Groovebuilt press).
Each “legacy” machine has been meticulously restored, or rebuilt from scratch. From the addition of all-digital temperature and pressure controls; custom-engineered molds for optimal record weight and sonic characteristics; PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) temperature-controlled pressing automation; and industrial integrated cooler system; to the consultation with NASA engineers on space-age machine improvements, all R&D and investment in our plant helps to further our goal of producing the highest quality vinyl records possible from both a sonic and aesthetic perspective at a fair price.
We increased the size of our factory by approximately 60% at the beginning of 2015. By the end of 2016, our record pressing capacity exceeded 1.5 million units annually. We continue to reinvest in machinery and infrastructure to expand our capacity and quality control.
We employ a full time mechanic, as well as more quality control workers than any other pressing plant in the U.S. — one quality control employee per every two pressing machines listening to approximately every 25th record off the press during every shift, regardless of order size. Notes are kept and pressing adjustments made, as necessary. This certainly does increase the amount of time necessary to manufacture records, but it has proven effective in shipping the highest quality records that can possibly be manufactured.
Before shipping test pressings to customers, each test is reviewed, typically on more than one turntable. Any imperfections are further inspected by our Quality Control Manager. In many cases, we make the decision to not ship test pressings and to further troubleshoot issues before the test pressings get into the customer’s hands. When required, we absorb the additional costs of remaking parts to correct test pressing issues. While this can add weeks to the time it takes to ship test pressings, it also maintains our 99% test pressing approval rating by correcting most issues before they can reach our customers’ turntables.
Every record we press is sleeved by a human being as a final visual quality checkpoint – at the end of a given order, usually at least 3 different sets of eyes and ears have inspected your records.
The black vinyl compound we use to manufacture records is a formula we specifically developed for our pressing machines in collaboration with U.S. based PVC manufacturer RIMTEC. The formula nearly eliminates all traditional molding/pressing issues such as stitching, non-fill, and material stamper scratches. Also, the compound itself is manufactured in the U.S.A., and is 100% lead-free.
We like to refer to our records as “vinyl perfect” — we are always striving for perfection in an imperfect medium, shipping records that are the best that they can sound/look given each project’s unique characteristics.
We invite you to view our company video to learn more about us, and our approach to making records.
Gotta Groove Records 2016 Staff
Print Services, Download Hosting, and Other Services:
We offer a wide range of print options to complete your vinyl package — from standard direct-to-board jackets (where the printing is done directly on the cardstock) to Tip-On jackets. We offer printed innersleeves with a special interior coating designed to protect records from scratches over time. We are a “one stop shop” for any sort of custom print option you can think of – from foil stamping and diecutting, to spot gloss treatments, “pop-up” displays and hardbound books. We have worked on a wide array of creative packages over the years.
We have a proprietary download hosting service that enables you to have a unique landing page for every record you release. Whether you want us to host basic 320kbps MP3 versions of your tracks for download, or higher res versions (or bonus material, videos, and art), our platform guarantees 99.8% up-time, and comes with consumer support for download code redemptions. Each code is hosted in perpetuity, but is only redeemable once. The standard download coupon we include has very simple instructions for redeeming the code, as well as a thumbnail of your cover art. Finally, for orders that are shrinkwrapped, we include a stock “free download included” sticker on the wrap.
Finally, we offer a vinyl-themed crowd funding platform called the GrooveBot; and through our sales consultant Clay Pasternack, we offer distribution services on compatible titles. Please inquire for more information.
Efficiency, Conservation, and Offsetting Environmental Impacts
Minimizing the footprint that is left upon our world is important to us in our manufacturing processes; as well as our ancillary administrative, storage, and shipping operations. Fortunately, vinyl records are a consumer good that is not generally “disposable” in nature. By focusing on making high quality records, we feel that we further ensure that our records are collected and owned for lifetimes. We also strive to manufacture high quality records in the most energy and resource-efficient manner. Where possible, we recycle and/or reuse materials involved in each facet of our operation. Finally, we are proud to contribute a portion of our profits to the Carbon Fund, to help offset the impact that any company of our size can have on the environment.
The Bottom Line – Quality and Customer Service
Our quality control efforts go beyond making sure your records sound and look great, but also assuring that the accompanying print looks great too. We try to make the design process as easy as possible for both experienced and novice designers, engineers, and musicians. However, we do recommend that you consult with professional graphic designers and professional mastering engineers to ensure your project is completed in the fastest turnaround possible, and at the highest level of quality.
If you don’t see what you are looking for or have a question, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (800) 295-0171.