How a P.E.I. company is cashing in on the vinyl revival

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How a P.E.I. company is cashing in on the vinyl revival

The co-owner of Atlantic Canada's first vinyl pressing plant always wanted to get into the music industry.

But Gideon Banahene is the first to admit he lacks any musical abilities.

"I can't sing. I can't play an instrument. That's why this is the best thing I've ever done — I'm surrounded by music all the time," Banahene said. "Every day, there's a new album, a new song, a new artist to discover."

'A gap in the market'

He and Ghislaine Cormier are co-owners of Charlottetown's Kaneshii Vinyl Press, one of only a handful of vinyl presses to have opened in Canada in recent years. "We realized there was a gap in the market that need to be filled and we jumped in right here on P.E.I.," Banahene said.

"This is the first year the vinyl industry is going to hit a billion in sales," he said, thanks to old-school audiophiles and a new wave of record collectors.

"It hasn't done that since the '70s and from the trends we've been seeing, the market is still going."

'Spin out an album in 27 seconds'

The company received a $175,000 loan from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and a $39,000 grant from the province. Last July, the two opened their 3,000-square foot facility that includes an automated press that can spin out an album in 27 seconds.

"We've pressed Ashley Condon's album, we did the East Pointers, we did Tara MacLean, we did Liam Corcoran," he said.

While the method of pressing records remains much the same as it was in your grandfather's day, the speed has almost doubled thanks to the new state-of-the-art vinyl press.

"A lot of those older machines you got about a record a minute," said production manager Joe McKenna.

How a record is made

To make a physical record, you start out with bucketfuls of polyvinyl chloride pellets about the size of grains of rice. 

"We have black, red, yellow," Banahene said. "We have an array of colours of pellets so the artists decide what colour they want."

The pellets pass through a steam tube that melts them into a plastic puck.The now-molten polymer is then sandwiched between the two stampers, one for the top and one for the bottom of a record.

Records are cooled overnight

The hardened disc then slips down to the next stage, where a trimmer blade slices off the excess vinyl. Finally, the records are cooled overnight before shipping.

"Each step is identical to how they made it 50 years ago, but the press is about a third of the size and twice the speed," McKenna said.

McKenna then does quality checks to make sure there are no flaws. "I'll take one out of every 10, take it back to the listening booth and go over it, make sure all the quiet spots are quiet, make sure all the loud spots are loud, you don't want to hear any distortion."

'You have to disconnect'

Banahene prefers to listen to music on vinyl rather than digitally.

"To me, it sounds better," he said. "You can't beat the ease of having digital everywhere you go, but listening to vinyl, it means you have to disconnect, you actually have to be an active listener, instead of just a passive listener."

Even though the business has only operated for a few months, Banahene already believes he and his partner made the right decision. Instead of just running five days a week, Kaneshii Vinyl now operates every second Saturday as well. So far, Kaneshii Vinyl has cranked out 30,000 albums.

"That shows we're actually growing and about 75 per cent of our customers now are repeat labels," he said.

Customers include artists from Ontario, Quebec, New York, as well as France and New Zealand.

'Demand for music from video games'

The vinyl maker is also pressing into new territory. It's running off a double album soundtrack for a video game maker in Nova Scotia that wanted a regional company do the job.

"We're doing one soundtrack. It could lead to two or three or four more soundtracks from other video game companies," Banahene said. "There's actually a growing demand for music from video games now."

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