Maker: United Record Pressing

On the record with Mark Michaels, head of North America’s biggest maker of vinyl LPs.

April 26, 2024

United Record Pressing is the oldest vinyl record pressing plant in the world and the largest in North America. We celebrated our 75th anniversary in February.

Editor’s Note

In this ongoing series from Stanford Business magazine we use an annotated photo to tell the story of a manufacturing business overseen by a Stanford GSB alum.

Mark Michaels, MBA ’87, is the CEO and chairman of United Record Pressing.

URP has always been in Nashville. Its history is so unique and it’s something we really celebrate. Over the years, it has pressed thousands of really important records. It pressed the first Beatles single in America and most of the Motown records during the ’60s and ’70s.

I bought the company in 2007. I’ve got an enormous passion for music, so that was a happy coincidence. But that wasn’t why I bought it. I thought it was a good deal and I wanted to build a small, niche business. I didn’t think vinyl was going to go away, but I didn’t think it was going to have the explosive growth that it has had over the past decade.

The low-water mark for vinyl was probably 2007 or 2008. The market was just the hardcore audiophile collectors. There was a whole generation of people that had grown up on only digital music, so they never had the experience of opening a record and looking at it, smelling it, reading the liner notes, and dropping a needle in the groove. When artists got behind vinyl again and started doing really interesting, creative things with the format, that resonated with this segment of the market. If you really love music and you love the art, you want to engage with it.

”I didn’t think vinyl was going to go away, but I didn’t think it was going to have the explosive growth that it has had over the past decade.”

The market picked up momentum in 2009 and 2010, and that carried on for the next seven or eight years. You had lots of demand, but the industry had limited ability to supply it. As vinyl really started to go crazy in 2020 and 2021, our customers asked us, “Can you expand more?” Now we’re making around 40,000 records a day. We made a little over 10 million records last year and we should exceed that this year.

This business just sucked me in and I fell in love with it. Even in the darkest days of trying to figure out how you’re going make all this work, you look around and say, “You know, I’m pressing Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue right now. This may not be an easy day, but it’s not that bad.” — Told to Dave Gilson

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