Grammy Award-winning rock group Metallica has bought its own vinyl pressing plant as sales of the previously stagnant format have stormed past CD sales for the first time in 35 years.
The veteran heavy metallers, led by frontman James Hetfield, have completed the purchase of the Virginia-based Furnace Record Pressing; a plant which has manufactured Metallica records for the past 15 years. The company’s founder and chief executive Eric Astor said this week that the deal would secure Furnace’s long-term future, while also placing it in a position to “take advantage of growth opportunities.”
The move will take the band’s relationship with the plant “to the next level,” the group’s co-founder Lars Ulrich explained. Hetfield added that the deal with Furnace would ensure that fans “will have continued access to high-quality records in future.”
Since the band’s formation in 1981, Metallica has grown to position itself as an industry leader in the sale of vinyl. Last year, the band sold more than 387,000 records in the US – the sixth-highest-selling act on vinyl, despite not releasing new material since 2016. The band’s next record, ‘72 Seasons’, is due for release next month.
The purchase is also expected to immunize Metallica from bottlenecks affecting the vinyl pressing industry, which have become apparent since the format’s resurgence in recent years, in what is the 16th consecutive year for vinyl growth in the US.
A recent report by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) stated that the vinyl industry in the US rose by 17% in 2022, amounting to over $1.2 billion in revenue. In that same timespan, vinyl outsold CDs by 41 million copies to 33 million. CD revenue, meanwhile, is down 18% to $483 million.
The overall collective revenue from physical music sales remains dwarfed by that of streaming platforms, however, which boasts overall sales of $13.3 billion in the US across all digital sources.
Metallica has attempted to position itself on the cutting edge of music distribution in the past. In 2000, the group filed a lawsuit against peer-to-peer file sharing website Napster to prohibit the free distribution of its music. The subsequent court ruling in the band’s favor is credited with being a key factor in the growth of paid digital streaming services commonplace today.