Here's a guest Blog by Levi Seitz from Blackbelt Mastering, one of our featured partners:
A lack of information is often what creates confusion in the realm of vinyl production. Let's clear some things up Seattle, shall we!
1. Every 12" and 7" record commercially available, like what you buy at at Sonic Boom or Easy Street, had an A and B side master cut on a lathe...no exceptions. The master parts were then electroplated and then the plates were used in a press to stamp out a vinyl record. That's the process...all real time 1950's industrial manufacturing. No shortcuts. A high level of skill and experience is needed to do it right.
In the past, Seattle has had a couple people with professional stereo lathes and the ability to cut master lacquers, however there is currently only one, Black Belt Mastering.
2. Lathe-cut records are cut one-at-a-time and are MONO. They are not commercially pressed like a standard record. These are usually cut on square polycarbonate (same material that soda bottles are made of), but can also be cut on formed pvc circular blanks of almost any color. These are cool, though somewhat lo-fi records and have a huge presence in independent music. Washington was home to one of the largest purveyors of lathe-cut, the super kind and clever Mike Dixon who created 'Lathecuts.com' and 'Mobile Vinyl Recorders'. Mike currently operates a lathe-cut co-op in Tucson, AZ.
There are only two people offering lathe-cut records in Seattle. Carlos Valdez and Kyle Ledford. Each brings special skills and strengths to the art form of mono lathe cut records.
3. SEATTLE HAS NO ACTUAL VINYL PRESSING PLANTS. There is only one commercial Pressing plant in the Northwest and we are lucky to have them.
Cascade Record Pressing, located in Portland, is not just the only plant in the area...I have always had awesome customer service experiences with them and their products are of the highest quality.
BROKERS: These are companies who act as a 'general contractor' for making vinyl records. They do not actually master, cut, plate or press your record to vinyl. Rather, they outsource your music (likely to one of the largest plants in the Czech Republic) to the lowest bidder to maximize their margins. As complicated as the process is for making a record, you give up the ability to interact and get direct information or choose the cutting or pressing facility when using a broker.
There you have it, folks! Some info about vinyl production in Seattle. Please share to help others gain awareness. Hope your next vinyl release is a successful one...the more you know!