News | Bertelsmann Marketing Services | Gütersloh/Sainte Marguerite, 03/10/2023

Back To Black – Sonopress Is Producing LPs Again

In 1992, Sonopress in Gütersloh stopped producing records. Thirty years later, the black disc is back, and Sonopress has started LP production again, albeit initially not in Gütersloh, but at the site of its partner Media Industries in Sainte Marguerite, France. The new vinyl capacities are mainly reserved for BMG.

Feierliche Eröffnung in Sainte Marguerite: Sonopress-Geschäftsführer Sven Deutschmann, Nitsa Kalispera, Executive Vice President Global Supply Chain bei BMG und François-Xavier Juzdzewski, Geschäftsführer von Media Industries (v.l.n.r.) nehmen eine von zwei hochmodernen Pressmaschinen offiziell in Betrieb.

Almost exactly 30 years after the last LP was produced at Sonopress in Gütersloh, the international replication services provider has returned to vinyl production with a partner company. At the end of February, Sonopress Managing Director Sven Deutschmann and François-Xavier Juzdzewski, Managing Director of Media Industries, inaugurated the revival of LP production at Sonopress at a small ceremony held at the press plant’s site in Sainte Marguerite, France. Records are produced there on two state-of-the-art pressing machines, primarily for the customer BMG, which was represented at the opening ceremony by Nitsa Kalispera, Executive Vice President Global Supply Chain, and Paul Lowe, Senior Director Production & Supply Chain.

1992 marked the end of an era for Sonopress and Topac. After 34 years, the last LP rolled off the production line in December, and the last sleeve was produced. “From 1958 to 1992, we produced more than a billion LPs in Gütersloh alone,” says Sven Deutschmann, recalling the time when the Gütersloh site was one of the world’s largest production facilities for the black disc. A production period of more than three decades was then followed by a break of almost exactly 30 years. It ended a few days ago, when on February 22 Sonopress, a Bertelsmann Printing Group company, began producing vinyl again, albeit not at the Gütersloh site alone.

“LP production involves several steps,” explains Sven Deutschmann, referring to the processing of the delivered audio files that is initially required with regard to vinyl cutting, e.g.: “Through our contacts, we were able to locate a direct metal mastering device and restore it to working order, so that we can carry out the first step of LP production in Gütersloh again.” The company also invested in professional electroplating for the LP format here. But for the pressing, Sonopress relies on an external cooperation. “In the summer of 2021, we sat down with our colleagues at BMG and jointly decided to get back into LP production. Since we knew that our long-standing partner Media Industry had the necessary infrastructure and comprehensive expertise in record production, it made sense to set up our machines directly in Saint Marguerite,” says Deutschmann, explaining the decision to produce in France.

The LP capacities Sonopress has now invested in are almost entirely reserved for the group’s sister company BMG. However, according to Deutschmann, the machines are only theoretically utilized 100 percent of the time. “This has to do with color changes and the structure of the orders, for example,” explains the Sonopress boss. For example, in addition to classic black vinyls, people’s desire for LPs with different color designs now plays a major role in production, while the quantities ordered range from smaller runs to 50,000 copies. As a result, there are always small gaps in production that the company is already “in specific talks” with other labels about filling.

For the production in France, which has now been ceremoniously inaugurated under the heading “Back to Black”, the Sonopress team initially purchased four new machines from the Swedish manufacturer Pheenix Alpha. The first two are already busy producing, while the other two are to be put into operation starting this summer. If you add these purchases to the money that has gone into the infrastructure, “our investments exceed the one-million mark,” reveals Deutschmann. And it won’t be too long before the first LP is produced in Gütersloh. “If everything goes according to plan, we will be launching an innovative production process in collaboration with Warner Music Group next July,” says Deutschmann.