Plastic fantastic: the Detroit teenager with his own vinyl record label

Jarrett Koral, 17, maybe the youngest entrepeneur in America capitalising on the increasing popularity of vinyl records

Jarrett Koral: brought up by vinyl-lovers. Photograph: YouTube

One of Detroit’s more unconventional record label owners is a big fan of vinyl, uses the money he generates to get new records pressed and isn’t all that concerned with the bottom line of his enterprise.

Jarrett Koral didn’t get into this business to make truckloads of cash. Besides, he has plenty of other concerns. Like keeping his grades up.

Meet the 17-year-old high school junior and founder of Jett Plastic Recordings, a fledgling label that for this year’s Record Store Day put out a seven-inch release from actor Macaulay Culkin’s Velvet Underground cover band and has around a half dozen releases still to come by year’s end. Koral practically grew up around physical records – his uncle owns Detroit’s Melodies and Memories shop – and the accelerated path he took to distributing the kind of music that ends up on turntables rather than digital playlists came after a personal sacrifice.

Koral sold off some of his personal record collection to come up with the money to pay for his first pressing, a seven-inch from Detroit band After Dark Amusement Park. That was towards the end of 2012, preceding a renewed interest in vinyl from the record-buying public that’s keeping a steady stream of orders coming in to labels like his.

“I still have school, but I pretty much devote all my time to the label,” Koral tells the Guardian. “Shipping orders, packing orders, doing promotions online, contacting news outlets – even just talking to the musicians takes a lot of time.

“I know it sounds corny, but the label is mainly me trying to put out what I like and want to get other people to listen to. What I was trying to do is let them have an outlet for their music. I was just trying to help out.”

Koral says he’s not out to make a significant amount of money from the label. Rather, at the moment he’s taking everything he earns and plowing all of it back into making more recordings. “I actually have yet to see a dime of profit.”

The way he does it, it costs around $2,000 to put out a seven-inch release, and a little more than that to fund an album. Since that first release, Jett Plastic has grown to support local and national acts, in addition to offering touring support.

The label has put out records by rock, punk, folk and blues artists. It’s riding a vinyl wave that saw sales of the format up 53% in the first quarter of this yearcompared with the same period in 2014, according to a Nielsen report.

About 9.2m vinyl units were sold in the US last year, up from 6.1m in 2013. Helping power that surge in the first quarter were, according to Nielsen, sales of so-called catalogue albums – those released at least 18 months earlier. Those were up 66%, with current vinyl releases up 37% between January and March.

While it’s not a recent trend – vinyl sales are up 260% since 2009 – the format remains something of a niche product, comprising less than 4% of all albums sold in the US in 2014. Still, it’s a welcome bit of news in an industry that’s seen traditional sales in freefall amid the rise of MP3s, then a tilt among consumers toward streaming.

Buyers hungry for vinyl means good news for entrepreneurs like Chad Kassem, a vinyl maker whose Kansas-based Quality Record Pressings recently announced it would buy 13 new record presses to meet surging demand. Koral, who says he’s not surprised by fresh interest in the format, is a beneficiary of the same boom.

“It really matters a lot how people interpret music and view these tangible formats,” said Koral, the name of whose label is a tip of the hat to Jet, the song by Paul McCartney’s band Wings.

“I don’t think interest in records ever really went away, the popularity just waned a little bit,” Koral said. “It’s really interesting to many how many people are interested in vinyl today. But it doesn’t surprise me, because all my life I’ve been surrounded by these people, people who’ve been collecting it their whole lives.”

It takes him about three to four months to get a record pressed and into distribution. Looking at his current lineup of releases, that takes him through September. He works with George Ingram of Nashville Record Production, a sound engineer who cuts acetates.

“I’m always open to going larger with this and maybe moving into digital eventually,” Koral says, while preparing to mow his family’s lawn. “I really just want to take it slow right now and see how it goes.”

Via The Guardian

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1 Comment

  1. Great enterprise! I still have all of mine, my deceased husband’s; my parent’s and some of my brother’s (Shhhh! Don’t tell him!)… Will never get rid of them. Don’t know what will happen to them after I die though….

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