Music & clubs

How Berlin became the capital of vinyl-pressing

Vinyl pressing in Berlin used to be non‐existent, we spoke to the two places changing that.

Photo: intact!

Up until now, the history of Berlin’s record production industry has been very short, in fact, there hasn’t been one. However, following the vinyl boom of recent years, two companies in Berlin are now pressing fresh records. We visited the two Berlin vinyl pressing plants intact! and Objects Manufacturing to find out how this old industry is being reborn in the German Capital. 

Vinyl production in Berlin, a new possibility

One of the leading figures of this new boom in Berlin record production can be found in a hall in Marienfelde. As black LPs are pressed by automatic machines next door, Max Gössler, founder of intakt! Presswerk GmbH, holds up a colourful disc: “We are currently working on a complicated production, an 8-LP set with multi-coloured records for Len Faki,” he explains. This can only be produced on a manual press. While multicoloured records are no longer a rarity, those being manufactured here go beyond the familiar patterns.

the cool discs right now are coming out of Berlin

Faki, a resident DJ at Berghain, has brought the artwork with him and wants to reproduce it on vinyl as best as possible. “After much trial and error, we managed to create the geometric shapes,”, says Gössler, holding up a pink LP with a blue square. Bear in mind, this is not simply a printed image, but rather a pattern that is pressed from a lump of vinyl.

Creating something like this was not possible in Berlin for a very long time. This is because the history of Berlin record production is short, you could even say nonexistent. Before the Second World War record production was mainly made on shellac, not vinyl.  At that time the most notable record manufacturer based in the city was Carl Lindström AG on Schlesische Straße in Kreuzberg. Their buildings are now marketed as “Schellack-Höfe”, but production itself was moved to Cologne in the early 1950s.

A surprising resurgence

Mass production of vinyl from the 1960s onwards required space that was not available in West Berlin. This is probably one of the reasons why no industrial pressing plant was ever established during the years of division. In the DDR meanwhile, although the sound carriers came from VEB Deutsche Schallplatten in Berlin, the pressing plant itself was located in Babelsberg, Potsdam. Only cassettes were produced in the capital, specifically in Johannisthal.

Even after reunification, the vinyl production situation in Berlin did not change immediately. This was the heyday of the CD, but vinyl remained the preferred recording medium for various subcultures. Club culture in particular continued to focus on the acoustic possibilities of vinyl records. In Berlin, this led to the founding of studios for record cutting, the best known of which is probably Dubplates & Mastering, but the actual pressing of the records still took place in the long-established pressing plants outside of the city. 

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And why not? Prices were low, and production times short. New pressing machines were no longer being built anyway; the existing ones were several decades old and not easy to come by. There were new pressing plants built elsewhere in Germany in the 1990s, but only working with second-hand machines, as the general focus remained on CDs. 

Photo: intact!

This changed around 2010, when vinyl experienced an unexpected renaissance, sparking both joy and frustration among those who had remained loyal to the medium until then: production times increased rapidly from four weeks to six months, and small labels ran the risk of being disadvantaged in favour of the larger ones. It was in this climate that Berlin record production was born.

Max Gössler, originally from Hamburg, moved to Berlin after studying economics. Together with his brother he organized the Somedate festival in Weimar and wanted to produce records for the associated label. However, the increased production times thwarted their plans. So, in 2014, he came up with the idea of setting up his own pressing plant. This was a bold idea at the time, but their network within the scene meant they could immediately pinpoint potential customers who had the same problems. By 2016 the time had come: in a hall on Trachenbergring that had previously belonged to Tyco Electronic, Gössler, along with a partner, founded Intakt!

Half a million records sold

Intakt! started off with two manual pressing machines, the production of which had since begun again. But that’s not the only thing you need to produce LPs: at the beginning of every production, there is cutting. The groove on the side of a record is cut on a special machine, either in the classic way into a lacquer foil or, using the DMM (Direct Metal Mastering) process developed in the 1980s, where the groove is cut into a copper foil. There are studios specialising in cutting that work with pressing plants, so intact! didn’t have to take care of this themselves. Cutting is then followed by the most difficult step: electroplating. In a complex chemical process, the negative, also called the stamper, is created from the film from which the discs are ultimately pressed. This requires experience and expertise; a lot of things can go wrong, including the new record cracking. “We were faced with the choice of investing in our own electroplating facility and expertise or having the stampers manufactured externally,” says Gössler. Today, intact! has a stake in the company Stamper Discs in Sheffield, England. The foils go there and the finished stamper discs end up in Berlin.

Shortly after the company was founded, new automatic presses came onto the market in addition to manual ones. intact! bought two. His co-founder now having left, Gössler learned how to operate the new equipment and hired the first employees. The team has since grown to 16 people, and around half a million records were produced in 2022. “We deliver ready for the market,” says Gössler, directly to the labels and distributors. The covers are delivered by printing companies and assembled on-site. The normal monochrome LPs are made using the automatic presses; while the two manual presses are now used to fulfil customers’ special requests. Customers such as Len Faki, who recently proudly announced the completion of production of his LP box on Instagram, complete with videos from the intakt! factory.

Another vinyl production crisis

Berlin’s second pressing plant also relies on this kind of customer loyalty. At Objects Manufacturing on Wilhelminenhofstrasse, in the old Oberschöneweider industrial area, things are still very new. The first production order was only delivered in August of this year, for the Berlin techno collective BCCO. The founding story of Objects Manufacturing begins in 2021 and is similar to that of intact!: Two friends, also from the club scene, were dissatisfied with the production conditions available elsewhere.

The first vinyl crisis in 2014 was soon to be followed by a second one, initially sparked by the pandemic and the associated supply bottlenecks for raw materials and cardboard, and later intensified by a further increase in demand, now also among artists outside of musical niches. Saturn and Dussmann expanded their LP departments, and artists like Adele and Metallica suddenly sold record numbers of vinyl editions. Once again, the pressing plants could no longer keep up with the orders, and the time was ripe for more vinyl production start-ups to open across Europe, including in Berlin.

Photo: Max Hartmann

Objects Manufacturing was founded by Jeremy Guillot from the Bright Sounds label and Daniel Plasch, who used to run the legendary Stattbad Wedding and is now manager of the Revier Südost club, as well as an active member of the Berlin Club Commission. Plasch’s experience as a club operator may be the reason why their factory looks the way it does: an impressive hall directly on the Spree, big and airy, with space for activities outside of the actual vinyl production, such as workshops, DJ -Sets and release parties. “We want to be a hub for the scene,” says Plasch. Artists and label bosses should be able to drop by in person and receive in-depth advice, including about covers and packaging. “Even label founders don’t usually know everything,” he says, adding that the aim is to intervene and make the production process as transparent as possible.

Objects Manufacturing: independent from the start

While foil cutting and cover printing are done externally, an in-house screen printing workshop is a potential idea for the future for Objects Manufacturing, who, in contrast to intact!, has set up its own electroplating shop and produces the stampers for the pressing process itself. This complex process is something for which employees have undergone extensive training. The aim was to be independent of external companies right from the start and to carry out as many of the production steps as possible locally. This is also part of an effort to be more energy efficient and sustainable, which were always big focuses of the planning of this production facility. In addition, they also offer stamper production to other pressing plants who don’t have their own electroplating facilities. Two automatic machines are already being used for pressing at Objects Manufacturing and there is room for even more as they grow.

With two companies, we could say that Berlin has quickly become the capital of vinyl pressing plants. But of course, this is only in terms of the number of companies, as both intakt! and Objects Manufacturing are small compared to the big old plants such as Pallas in Diepholz, Lower Saxony, where work is carried out in multi-shift operations. Naturally, people in Berlin turn to the many small, subcultural musicians and labels that exist here, and not only in the house and techno scene. Making records in your own city, with personal, face-to-face contact, is an attractive prospect to many across the city’s musical genres. Let Metallica use the big pressing machines elsewhere  – the cool discs right now are coming out of Berlin.