Vinyl Player Original

Scottish vinyl pressing plant Seabass Vinyl to start production this year

The delay in producing vinyl during the pandemic impacted the smaller independent bands who saw the lead time stretch as they tried to get their records out to buyers. To discover there is currently a project underway in East Lothian just outside Edinburgh in Scotland to produce a brand-new vinyl pressing plant, the first in Scotland, is thrilling. The creators of this ambitious project are David and Dominique Harvey.

Why did you decide to undertake this project to create a vinyl pressing plant?
Dave: Dominique and I met in Dublin 2002/2003. We both used to work for Accenture, a management consulting company. I was a specialist in technical architecture and infrastructure and Dominique was a supply chain expert. My original education background is chemical and process engineering so similar to some of the technical concepts of the plant and Dominique being a supply chain expert is more on the order and management side dealing with customers etc. So we have a little bit of relevant background in terms of consulting skills working for large companies but no real music background.

We moved to Scotland in 2019 partly because of Brexit and started to think about setting up some sort of a business together, that we could run and work together on that was creating employment and was involved in the local community.

For the business idea itself, there were two reasons why we decided to do this. We saw one of our friends who was in a band and getting shafted with split releases and delays to vinyl delivery. We could see they were sending out emails saying we’re sorry, and they had delay after delay after delay. But the real trigger was that the British government decided they were going to give a £2million grant to Liverpool to set up a museum for The Beatles. Simon Raymonde from Bella Union and Cocteau Twins replied on twitter saying what a load of nonsense. Why don’t you go and buy ten of these vinyl pressing plants from Newbilt machinery in Germany and you’ll create far more value to the music industry in the UK? So that triggered the idea to go and do some research. We started to look into pressing plants. I didn’t realise that there were still presses available that you could buy. It was the tweet from Simon that was the trigger that “I am actually going to go and investigate this”.

HOW did you begin to turn this idea into reality?
Dominique: We went to Making Vinyl in Nashville last year. We met fellow pressers and people from the industry who were really supportive, and who offered a few words of caution particularly around the demand not being as steep as it had been in the past.

Dave: We went to visit Dublin Vinyl as we were selecting which vinyl press we were going to use. There are three main manufacturers at the moment and they have two of the main types. We placed the order in February 2022 then went to Nashville, and at that stage we were all in as we’d already placed the order for the presses. We had also submitted a bid to lease a piece of land to build the factory in February 2022 as well.

Dominique: At Making Vinyl we met people from Press On Vinyl who are based in Teeside and they have been really supportive. We went to their plant and they have been amazing, sharing their knowledge.

Dave: A lot of support from Third Man Pressing as well, Jack White‘s pressing plant. They were very supportive when we met them in Nashville. In terms of the independent pressing plants it’s been very collaborative up to now.

Third Man Records Pop up Shop

WHAT has been the main challenge to date?
Dave: The main challenge has been getting our own premises and building our own factory. There are a couple of reasons for that. One is we want the security. We’re going to spend a lot of money building this factory and we didn’t want to be told our lease is up in five years time. And we also wanted to be able to build a plant, which is as sustainable as possible. It would be much more difficult to move into certain premises and install solar panels or wind turbines etc. There wasn’t anywhere suitable off the shelf in a reasonable commuting distance for us. So we went into a bidding process to lease a plot of land at Macmerry Industrial Estate at Tranent in East Lothian. It took a long time to get the lease agreed with East Lothian Council. Once we submitted our planning permission there was a suspicion there were coal mines under the plot. There was a delay while we worked out how to resolve the need for investigation work to prove if there were coal mines or not. In fairness in the end it was a creative deal to allow us to buy the land and take the risk of doing the drilling work and they will buy the land back if it wasn’t possible to be developed. It was a very fair deal that we agreed it just took us a long time to get there.
We are effectively doing two things, we’re building a vinyl pressing plant and building a commercial property. Either one of those would be quite chunky on their own terms. It’ll definitely be worth it to have our own premises in the end because we’ll have control over the whole situation, including where we are putting equipment. Hopefully we get the planning permission for the turbines and that will probably make us one of the greenest plants in the world.

Dominique: We have a big surface of solar panels as well. The design of the plant was modified to maximise the surface for solar panels.

Dave: We’ve got probably twice as much cooling equipment as everybody else. Our cooling costs should be about 20% of what most pressing plants will be because we are going to have this free air cooling equipment. Because we are in Scotland its colder so its more efficient.

Dominique: Another challenge is that we have been doing our day jobs as well to be able to finance the project. So we have two jobs in parallel. But in the next couple of months we are going to draw a line and stop our consulting jobs. We’re already fully engaged with Seabass Vinyl and we’ll both be full-time from September.

Where are you as of today? Has the building work started?
Dave: We’re doing groundworks at the site at the moment. Another complication is that the site is on a hill. So they have to cut and fill to reduce one side of the hill by a metre and a half and raise the other side. They are in the process of doing that and we poured the foundations on 14 July. The plan is that we take possession of our unit the first week in November. It’s a tight plan but everybody is working towards that and we’re hitting the milestones.

Dominique: The funny thing is that the presses are going to be delivered in the next couple of weeks from Sweden and so we’re going to store them in our home! One in the spare room and one in the garage.

What is the next steps to build the business and demand?
Dave: The timeline is that we will aim to take orders from September. However the key thing for us is that we need to be sure we can deliver. We are starting to talk to various different people for example we are talking to Lost Map Records in Eigg, we’ve exchanged emails with Johnny Lynch. We’ll also talk to Assai Records. We’re starting to talk to some of the brokers, however there is an element of chicken and egg. We have to get to the point where we’re able to give confidence that we can deliver. We recognise that we’re not experts in this industry so we have to prove our credibility.  For example I met with Ronnie Gurr, the Chief Executive of Scottish Music Industry Association. The idea is to make artists and the industry aware that there is capacity that sits within Scotland for them to start to use.

Dominique: We are also starting to build our final website, the landing page is there at the moment. We should have this finished by the end of August. We’ll then start cranking up on social media but there again there is only so much you can put on it when you haven’t pressed a record yet. And a shout out to our Graphic Designer from Glasgow called Nick Tweedy. He captured exactly what we wanted for Seabass Vinyl, which by the way it is named after our son Sebastien! Of course there is also the connection with the sea and its incorporated in the logo.

logo 1

Dave: There are people we are planning to work with who are not so critical on dates. We have tentatively agreed to work with a band in Manchester who have an album recorded and ready to go, so there’s probably less time pressure for them and we can perhaps use them for proof of concept. I think its going to be great for everyone that there is going to be a plant in Scotland. The other interesting thing from our perspective is that we are also interested in working with some of the classical music and folk music artists so its not just indie bands that we’ll be working with. Our intention is that we will always retain capacity for small direct orders so that we can support smaller bands. Part of the reason for doing this is that we can see that bands have no revenue stream.  Our aim is to create a revenue stream for them and that was part of the pitch to East Lothian Council as well.

I can imagine you are not going to have a problem with demand!
Dave: There is much more capacity for vinyl pressing production globally than there was. The crisis that was there a year or two ago, in terms of 9 and 10 month waits for vinyl doesn’t really exist anymore. You’re probably looking at 2 to 3 months lead time now.

Dominique: Initially we’d love to work as much as we can with Scottish artists because we live in Scotland and we are discovering more and more Scottish music that we love including Celtic music. Of course we would work with the rest of the UK as well and if possible Europe and US too but there are other constraints with the taxes and tariffs etc. At the moment we will focus more locally.

You are sitting within the market that you want to serve.
Dominique: Yes, we want to work with local artists, and serve the local community. We want to be impactful locally in East Lothian as well. That would be our priority.

Dave: The target to produce 50,000 or 60,000 records a month when we get fully up to speed. We will start production with two presses to ensure we can manage the costs and the capacity but we have sized all our infrastructure design for four presses, so our boiler, our cooling equipment is all sized to be able to support four presses. We intend to place an order for two next year once we’ve seen that we are successful.

So you’ve had the foresight to lay down that preparation.
Dave: It’s another advantage of being in the custom premises that we can do that. The people that we have worked with on the specification design of the cooling and boiler equipment in particular are very good so that we know we will maintain the same efficiency levels operating at four presses as we do at two presses. But it also means we don’t have redundant equipment and costs for the future – and for the sustainability perspective its much better as well.

Seabass Vinyl has now been announced as partners of the Scottish Album of the Year 2023 , and will be sponsoring the Sound of Young Scotland award by funding a run of up to 500 record pressings of their debut album.

For more information and to follow progress on Seabass Vinyl please check out their facebook, website and instagram.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.