It’s not often that the worlds of manufacturing and popular music collide, but when they do, the result is pure metal. But first, a little background. Unlike most people today, I don’t listen to music through a streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music. When I want to lose myself in a classic album, I fire up the stereo and put on a vinyl record. As pretentious as it might sound, there’s a warm, rich quality to music that’s hidden in the grooves of a scratched record. With a growing collection of over 700 LPs to choose from, I’m never at a loss for a stellar soundtrack.
So when I heard that Metallica had purchased a majority interest in Furnace Record Pressing, a U.S.-based vinyl pressing company, I was overjoyed. The company, which was founded in 1996, operates out of a 70,000-square-foot facility in Virginia and presses over 25,000 records a day. Furnace has worked with Metallica for the past decade to meet the fan’s increasing demand for records. According to Robert Levine for Billboard, “In 2022 and 2021, Metallica rated among the best-selling acts on vinyl in the U.S., according to Luminate – No. 6 in 2022, with 387,000 albums sold and No. 7 in 2021 with 337,000 sold. That’s especially remarkable for a brand that hasn’t released a new album since 2016. (In 2022, the group’s most popular release was Master of Puppets, which sold 91,000, followed by “the black album” and Ride the Lightning.) In most years, the U.S. accounts for roughly half of the group’s vinyl sales worldwide.”
This demand for records in not unique to Metallica. In a recent article in Variety, Jem Aswad explored the financial side of the music industry. According to the article, in 2022, “revenues from physical music formats also maintained an upward trajectory, although at a slower pace, up 4% at $1.7 billion. However, the pandemic played major role in the 2021 growth of 17%, as record stores reopened after many months of lockdown. However, revenues from vinyl grew 17% to $1.2 billion – the sixteenth consecutive year of growth – and accounted for 71% of physical format revenues. For the first time since 1987, vinyl albums outsold CDs in units (41 million vs 33 million). After a 2021 rebound versus the Covid impacted 2020, revenues from CDs fell 18% to $483 million in 2022.”