There’s a New Record Manufacturer in Town — And It’s Entirely Sustainable

There’s a New Record Manufacturer in Town — And It’s Entirely Sustainable

About a decade into his career with Universal Music Group (UMG) — primarily heading A&R and working as a staff producer for Harvest Records — Tim Anderson had a front-row seat to the late-2010s vinyl boom. “It was still an archaic, dinosaur thing,” he recalls of how labels approached record pressing. He started to wonder why records were so hard to manufacture and had such long lead times — and what he could do about it.

By the time the pandemic hit, Anderson — who is also a songwriter-producer, composing for Suits and working with acts like Banks, Halsey and twenty one pilots — had left his major-label gig and had little interest in producing. Unsure of what to do next, his wife kept reminding him that music is what he knows best and suggested he tackle the vinyl issue that had plagued him years ago.

Twenty minutes later, Anderson made his first call to Scotty Coats, an old friend of his wife’s and Capitol Music Group’s one-time vinyl marketing manager. Coats immediately expressed his belief in the idea of a more sustainable approach to vinyl manufacturing. The call motivated Anderson — who doesn’t have an environmentalist background, admitting he gets confused trying to properly sort his recycling — to figure out how to make his vision a reality.

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He found a video online posted by Dutch company Green Vinyl Records, which detailed the development of an environmentally friendly alternative to record manufacturing that is free of polyvinyl chloride. “I’d been told my entire life that you needed the PVC to make a record sound great, and I just believed it,” Coats says. “Until Tim came along and inspired me to find a better way.”

“We saw it right when we met them that they had made something that could be this huge unlock,” Anderson recalls of GVR. He says the company needed a partner to help scale what it had built, and Good Neighbor was able to provide production contacts at many independent and major labels, especially in the United States. “They needed us and we needed them,” he says.

Soon after, Anderson met Reyna Bryan, president of innovative packaging company RCD, and in late 2023, he quietly launched Good Neighbor, a first-of-its-kind record-pressing company that manufactures fully recyclable discs, with Reyna as CEO and Coats as vp of sales and marketing. He later hired Coats’ friend and UMG manufacturing veteran Jonny O’Hara as vp of productions and operations. “As more people were stepping back into the world of vinyl, a lot of artists were like, ‘Is there a more eco-friendly alternative?’ ” O’Hara recalls. “There were better options coming online, but they were never to the same degree as Good Neighbor.”

“In my business of transforming supply chains, any opportunity to reduce carbon production or eliminate chemicals of concern from the process is a major win,” adds Bryan. “Good Neighbor achieves both.”

Key stakeholders of Good Neighbors, from left: Tim Anderson, Scotty Coats, Reyna Bryan and Jonny O’Hara.

Instead of a traditional hydraulic press, which uses energy to heat up and cool down, GVR’s “futuristic-looking” machine (as O’Hara describes it) uses injection molding of polyethylene terephthalate (PET plastic), which reduces energy by 60% and increases manufacturing by three times. (GVR’s single press in the Netherlands, running three eight-hour shifts, has an estimated capacity of 1.2 million records a year.) A second press will arrive in the United States in mid-September. (Good Neighbor is currently raising money through the team’s pro-skater friends and music managers.)

GVR’s Pierre van Dongen and Harm Theunisse say they looked to the pressing process for CDs and DVDs as inspiration, noting how precise and adaptable it was. And while they say some research on trying this process with records was done in the 80s, it was never finished — until now. It took them six years to “perfect the development,” as they say, which included testing over 200 materials, optimizing molding and developing the direct to record label printer. 

Coats and O’Hara are particularly excited about how this new process eliminates paper center labels that require high-heat baking in order to stick to PVC. Instead, Good Neighbor’s labels will be directly printed onto the PET plastic, allowing for individual customization of records — a sustainable step forward for exclusivity. Meanwhile, Anderson is thrilled that the machine is “material-agnostic,” meaning it can mold any material into a record, but Anderson says most don’t sound great — yet. The company is currently testing recycled bottles.

And while Anderson says he leaned on his “purist” friends for feedback on test pressings of the PET plastic and that no one pushed back on quality after listening, he still acknowledges that “audiophiles might not be our target consumer.” With Good Neighbor, he says, the goal isn’t to shame vinyl connoisseurs for their existing collections but to set a new precedent for sustainability in record production.

“If this industry keeps growing at this pace, it’s got to change … When the biggest artists in the world start selling millions and millions of these shrink-wrapped [vinyl], that’s when I was like, ‘This feels like something that would be fun to disrupt.’”

A version of this article will appear in the June 8, 2024, issue of Billboard.


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