For Copycats Media, the CD boom never ended.
You might think only boomers and ’06 Elantra drivers (such as the author of this story) are clinging to the dying format, and industry trends would largely back that up. CD sales have plummeted from their 2000 peak ($13.2 billion) to rock bottom ($483.2 million) in 2020, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. Last year CD sales ticked up slightly for the first time in 17 years, largely driven by the 900,000 copies of 30 that Adele sold in the U.S. alone.
Copycats churned out truckloads of Adele CDs, though Justin Kristal wouldn’t specify exactly how many. The president of the Minneapolis-based CD replicator is more forthcoming about daily production.
“We are the largest CD manufacturer in America,” he says, noting that many rival facilities shuttered as listeners migrated online. “We do about 200,000 discs per day—it’s crazy to think about. People continue to be like, ‘I don’t know who’s buying CDs.’ But yet, we’re still manufacturing stuff; people still want stuff. The fans love physical product.”
Especially vinyl records.
Continuing a decade-long trend, vinyl sales jumped 61% last year to $1 billion—the highest figure since 1986, back when Music From the TV Series Miami Vice went quadruple-platinum. Copycats already offers clients vinyl options, ones they fulfill by proxy at a partner facility in New Jersey. Demand is so “insane,” Kristal says, that orders are booked out through next February. (That demand, combined with supply-chain nuttiness, is causing major production delays across the industry, as the Star Tribune localized in February.)
So Copycats decided to invest in vinyl. Big time. At first, Kristal considered building out presses inside the current 100,000-square-foot factory.
“But we’d tap ourselves out so fast,” he says. “So we ended up buying a new building. It’s super exciting to tell everyone: This is real. It’s happening.”
That new Maple Grove warehouse (“a giant box, which is what you want for manufacturing”) spans 65,000 square feet, and Copycats is in the process of outfitting it for vinyl production: boiling PVC down into puck-form, heating up and stamping those pucks into LP molds, rapidly cooling off the resulting record, and shooting ’em into sleeves. The company will begin with four presses, but they’ll have plenty of space for more. “I’m not gonna lie, we didn’t buy a 65,000-square-foot building to stop at four presses,” Kristal says.
Remarkably, Kristal believes the new Copycats vinyl plant—opening date TBD—will be the first-ever in Minnesota. (Worth noting: Some Racket readers challenge this belief.) Even when my dad was smoking skunk weed and buying new Wings LPs at Down in the Valley, if true, those albums were always sourced from out of state.
“I even double-checked, ‘Was there one back in the day?’” Kristal says. “And nothing. We will be the first, there’s been nothing in the past that I’m aware of.”
Here’s a mini photo tour of Copycats’ soon-to-be-waxy new facility.