Made In Kansas: Vinyl records

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A "Made in Kansas" product of which most Kansans are probably not aware is the vinyl record. A vinyl revival continues with audiophiles, and a company in Salina is meeting the demand for records.

Quality Record Pressings is a division of Acoustic Sounds, based in Salina.  The company has been pressing vinyl records since 2010, said owner Chad Kassem.

Kassem moved to Kansas from Louisiana in 1984. Kassem noted that was the same year the compact disc was introduced. He said his hobby was collecting records, and it became more difficult to find vinyl records. So he decided to turn his hobby of collecting, buying and selling vinyl into a business.

Through mail order and the internet, the business grew to the point that some of the record companies weren't keeping up with Kassem's customers'  demands. That's when he decided the thing to do was to start his own record pressing company.

"We're still doing what we wanted to do as a hobby when we were 20, pressing our favorite record," Kassem said.

Inside the plant on the north side of Salina, visitors can find 12 vinyl record pressing machines dating back to the 1960s. They've been updated with the latest computer technology, to make them run smarter.  

Last year, Quality Record Pressings made 1.6 million records. Communications Manager David Clouston said the company works with the "big three"  record companies of Sony, Warner Brothers and Universal, as well as many independents.

Kassem said people love their music on vinyl. "They're hot.... and it's because of the sound quality," he explained. "We sell all over the world."

But Kassem gets a bit annoyed with the continued amazement of some that the work is done in Salina. Kassem said he gets responses such as, "'You're in Salina, Kansas?' And they go, 'Why Salina?'  And we say, 'Why not?' They go. 'You're in the middle of nowhere.' And I say no.  We're in the middle of everywhere." 

From Salina, the records do go everywhere. And Kassem likes to point out, "We make our money from people from overseas and in other states and we spend it here."

Right now, Quality Record Pressings has 45 employees.  The larger company, Acoustic Sounds, employs 100.

"Now we've got our own printing press. We've got our own plating department.  We make our own labels.  We've got our own graphic designers.  We've got our own mastering facilities," Kassem noted. "We do everything but make the vinyl jacket."

Last year, slightly more than 13 million vinyl records were sold in the U.S., according to Soundscan which tracks such things.  That's up from 11.9 million in 2015. 

"We're the luckiest men on earth, at least I feel that way," Kassem said. "It's our passion. It's our hobby. We love it. We listen to music for a living. And to hear your favorite record better than you've ever heard it before - that's fun."

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