A Canadian solution to physical music's biggest bottleneck just became even more Canadian.
The Toronto startup Viryl Technologies, which announced earlier this year it had designed newly modernized and improved vinyl record presses, has inked its first partnership, with Calgary's Canada Boy Vinyl. The Alberta record-pressing company has purchased three of Viryl's presses, and they are expected to ship in September.
"It's a great match for everybody," said Chad Brown, Viryl's chief executive, in an interview this week. "It'll keep us Canadians on the forefront of press technology."
Canada Boy will be the first client to run presses from Viryl, which sold seven of its $180,000 (U.S.) presses last month.
Vinyl LPs have become something of a luxury product among music fans. Sales of vinyl fell sharply in the 1980s and nineties as CDs became popular. Manufacturers stopped making vinyl presses, and now, amid the vinyl revival, old, creaky presses are selling for hefty prices.
"It can be pretty cold and lonely in the Great White North when you're building a pressing plant from zero," said Dean Reid, co-founder of Canada Boy, which launched last September. "It's extremely nice to have Canadian support."
Vinyl sales represent a sliver of the music market: about 2 per cent of global recorded-music revenue. But big, tangible, holdable LPs have convinced consumers to part with mounds of cash as most music fans adopt the own-nothing model of streaming services. And vinyl no longer serves just niche listeners: Adele's 25 was the best-selling vinyl record in Canada last year. Canadians, in fact, bought 517,400 LPs last year, up 30 per cent over 2014.
Canada Boy presses records for many labels, from indies to the majors. "We have the whole rainbow covered," Mr. Reid said.
He first heard of Viryl from his supplier of PVC plastic. (Vinyl is made by steam-heating and squishing pucks of PVC against "negative" moulds of a record.) Buying new presses from the Toronto company and "giving Canadian musicians the chance to keep their business in Canada was huge for me," Mr. Reid said.
Canada Boy runs three presses it bought from an old plant in England for about 20,000 euros ($30,000 Canadian). The company presses 1,500 to 2,000 records a day, with capacity for up to 4,000.
Mr. Reid's plant might not be operating at full capacity, but other manufacturers around the world are experiencing bottlenecks of up to six months thanks to overwhelming demand. Adding new presses from Viryl will allow Canada Boy to grow faster and make it one of the most modern plants in the world.
Viryl's presses include technology that couldn't have been imagined in vinyl's heyday. It allows press owners to keep pressure, temperature and other variables in check.
The company is also starting to manufacture pieces for other parts of the vinyl-making process, including moulds. The 20-employee company plans to add employees and ramp up production to build a new press every two weeks.
Canada Boy is the country's only full-fledged pressing plant. A decade ago, Mr. Brown had that honour; he ran Acme Pressing in Markham, Ont., but shuttered it after four years of steam from the old machines burning his hands and face. His experience led him to reinvent the record press.
But there can be a certain romance to that kind of high-maintenance relationship. Mr. Reid, for instance, doesn't intend to ditch his old presses any time soon.
"We've put so much blood, sweat and tears into those machines," he said. "Those babies aren't going anywhere, man."