5 Star Story: Memphis Record Pressing

Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 10:30 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis is the Home of the Blues and birthplace of Rock & Roll, and will soon add another historic music note to its legacy, as home to the largest record pressing plant on the continent.

In this 5 Star Story highlighting the people, places and things that make us proud to call the Mid-South home, we’re taking a tour of Memphis Record Pressing.

Vinyl is back, outpacing CD sales for the first time since 1987, and Memphis is at the forefront.

Mark Yoshida, Chief Operating Officer and founding partner of Memphis Record Pressing, talked about when the company first started in the business in 2015.

”Every year, when we started doing vinyl, the industry was saying, ‘Well, maybe one of two more years before it hits its plateau in sales., And then, next thing we knew, two or three years later, they were saying, ‘Well, three or four years more of growth.’ It just keeps growing,” Yoshida mused.

Memphis is at the forefront of the renaissance in vinyl records.
Memphis is at the forefront of the renaissance in vinyl records.(Action News 5)

The company started with record presses from a defunct record company in another state.

“So, we found some really old presses that were about 45- to 50-year-old presses. We revived them (and) started on our trek through the vinyl world,” he explained.

Memphis Record Pressing, or MRP, didn’t start out as large as it has now become.

“First year, we probably had about, when we started doing vinyl, maybe 15 people in the first year, and then now we have about 375. And by June, we’ll probably have over 500 employees,” Yoshida said. “Right now, we’re around 62,000 records a day. We’re getting ready to put six more presses online. We’ll have 18 more after that. We’re going from 14 presses to 50 presses altogether.”

And also by June, Yoshida said the company will produce 120,000 records a day.

“And that will make us the largest record-pressing plant in North America,” he claimed.

Memphis Record Pressing is a wholesaler that deals directly with major record labels like Sony, Universal and Warner, as well as hundreds of independent artists and labels. And it’s not just packaging that happens there.

Memphis is at the forefront of the renaissance in vinyl records.
Memphis is at the forefront of the renaissance in vinyl records.(Action News 5)

“We actually press the records. There’s what’s called a metal plate, a stamper, that has... it’s a mirror image of the negative of a record,” said Yoshida, while describing the record press as being like “a big waffle iron where we’re pressing together the records.”

Then, MRP employees package the records in sleeves and jackets and then, they box them up, shrink wrap the boxes, and off they go to distributors.

For eight years now, MRP has been in a constant state of expansion, quickly outgrowing the company’s original 11,000-square-foot building at Brother Boulevard on the Bartlett and Memphis city line.

“Now, with all our expansion, we’re about 80,000 square feet. And then we have a second campus where we do our packaging and our warehousing, shipping and receiving. That’s 108,000 square feet. So, we’re close to just under 200,000 square feet in total,” Yoshida explained.

With a physical footprint that large, MRP prides itself on keeping its environmental footprint as small as possible. Yoshida walked us through the process.

“Steam and cooling water... that’s the heart of all the presses,” Yoshida said. “They have to heat up the presses with steam, but it’s all closed loop, so when steam cools off, turns into liquid, gets pumped back into the boilers. Same thing with water. We cool off the water. We use that to cool our molds and our presses.

“When it heats up it gets recycled back. Same thing with our vinyl. Not all the vinyl is used in a record... we have to trim off the edges. So that gets reground, reused... we try to send a minimal amount of product to the landfill,” he detailed.

Memphis is at the forefront of the renaissance in vinyl records.
Memphis is at the forefront of the renaissance in vinyl records.(Action News 5)

Record pressing is an intensive process that also requires constant review of the product, with employees who do little else than listen to records to make sure they hear nothing but what the record company wants.

MRP makes a product that’s making an indelible mark on the music industry.

“There’s something pretty cool about when you see a title go across and you see, you know, a finished product, and you see that knowing that our company was a part of that,” boasted Yoshida, who’s part of a company adding another proud note to the musical history of Memphis and the Mid-South.

Ribbon-cutting ceremonies at Memphis Record Pressing’s expanded facilities are scheduled for later this week and next - and MRP is looking to hire!

The company hopes to fill 125 positions by June for entry-level packaging, press operators, sales, customer service, human resources, and accounting. For more details, click here.

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