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Putting a Czech Spin on Vinyl

A company that hung on to its record-stamping machines is now the world’s No. 1 maker of LPs
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Photographer: Martin Divisek/Bloomberg

Hipsters in London, New York, and Seattle may be the driving force behind the resurgence of vinyl records. Yet few outside the music industry know that the return of the LP is truly a Bohemian story. Lodenice, a village 16 miles outside Prague, is home to the world’s biggest producer of vinyl.

Albums by Black Sabbath, David Bowie, and U2 line the walls at the headquarters of GZ Media, which last year pressed 13.7 million records for up-and-coming indie labels along with industry stalwarts such as Sony and Universal Music Group. The Czech company is riding the wave of the LP revival, thanks to a fleet of half-century-old presses still capable of producing top-quality discs. “It was our great stroke of luck that even in the meager 1980s and 1990s, when nobody was buying vinyl anymore, the management decided to keep the machines and never threw them out,” says Michal Nemec, GZ’s sales and marketing director. In the U.S., 80 percent of record-making equipment was scrapped, says Bob Roczynski, owner and president of Record Products of America, a Hamden (Conn.) company that supplies machine parts to the dozen or so surviving plants in the U.S. Order backlogs at many of those companies now run three to four months, he says. “In the old days, if you were backlogged that much, you weren’t doing something right.”