Chances are, if you’ve purchased an album released by a local band over the past few years, the good folks at Noiseland Industries have had something to do with getting the album pressed and into the hands of area music lovers. The boutique LP and CD manufacturer located in NE Minneapolis has been servicing the music industry on both a local and national level since 1994, when founder Andrew Volna first began helping his friends release their own music.
That sense of enterprising dedication has helped his company blossom over the past two decades, and the recent vinyl boom has now made Noiseland one of the most sought after, go-to LP manufacturers in the entire United States.
Now, some people might be a bit disappointed—like I briefly was upon first visiting Noiseland’s offices—to find out that there actually isn’t a vinyl pressing plant located on the premises. But when you consider that the last brand new vinyl press was built in 1982, and most of the old equipment was scrapped following the emergence of CDs in the ’90s, it’s easy to see why Noiseland has to outsource their vinyl to MPO International, a pressing plant in France.
Noiseland has always had a hands-on approach to getting their clients exactly what they are after, and boast a surprisingly quick turnaround time for both small and large batch LP orders, which is remarkable for the industry. That reliable diligence has in turn caught the attention of Sony Music, who recently got turned on to Noiseland because of Justin Vernon; he recommended the local company to the major label and suggested that they manufacture the vinyl for the upcoming Blind Boys Of Alabama LP after Noiseland handled Vernon’s latest Shouting Matches album.
“There are more people who want records than there are people who can make them. That’s the problem,” explains Volna, relaxing ever so briefly in a spacious office filled with random music memorabilia as well as artwork from Marcel Dzama and Basquiat. “We found a plant that didn’t have any exposure to the U.S. market, so they had extra capacity and they had no one in the U.S. that was selling their services. It’s worked well for everybody. We’re their single largest outlet now for vinyl, so we’re moving a lot of product. People come in here and they think they’re going to see a pressing machine, but we just export bureaucracy out of here. We’re the nerve center. We’ve really just come up with a bulletproof process to deliver really nice records, on time, with a high degree of capability.”
And that proficiency and professionalism has caused artists like Willie Nelson, Doomtree, Eric Clapton, the Suburbs, Sleigh Bells, Poliça, Edward Sharpe, Buddy Guy, Solid Gold, Glen Campbell, John Frusciante, Trampled By Turtles, and many others to trust in their services. Typically, that bond continues from one release to the next, with Noiseland delivering a quality product to their client with each subsequent album. Noiseland also does graphic and package design work for their releases if called upon, creating the entire look of a CD or record for a band if that is what they are after. The walls (and floors) of their offices are affectionately adorned with albums that they’ve helped put together. And the recent resurgence in vinyl sales has only helped expand and ultimately promote Noiseland to the music masses.
“Vinyl has opened a lot of doors for us, because it’s something that people struggle to get done, so we can provide them with a good solution, and that leads to new business for us,” says Volna. “In some ways vinyl has helped our CD business as well, because vinyl is the precious offering that brings other things along with it. I would not have been sitting on Madison Avenue on the 19th floor in Sony’s offices if they weren’t having a vinyl problem. It’s like, ‘You’ve got a vinyl solution? Sit down with us, let’s talk.’ It’s nice to have something that people want, you know? When you’re in sales, it’s just kind of fun to say, ‘We can help. We can do that.’ And so far, people are like, ‘OK. Make it happen.’”
The vinyl revival is ultimately perfectly suited for a small, intimate company like Noiseland. “Vinyl is still a niche product, which is great, since we’re a boutique, high touch company that works really closely with our customers. So it’s a perfect format for us,” Volna says appreciatively. “It’s come back from the brink of extinction for people who are passionate about their music, and it’s something way cooler to have than just an MP3 file. It reminds people that it’s art.”
While the rapid increase in demand for vinyl presents Noiseland with a specific set of challenges. “Our problem is delivery dates, because vinyl just takes time. It takes five to six weeks just to get a record made,” explains Volna. “Bands are usually behind schedule, and because we’re the last mile, we only get whatever time is left over to work some miracles. We are cognizant that we are only going to continue to grow the place until we get it to a place where it’s still sustainable. We want to be the beloved manufacturer, and have loyal customers who come to us to do a good job, and not over-promise and under-deliver.”
As far as where the vinyl industry can go from here, Volna is cautiously optimistic, realizing that the limited resources available to everyone associated with pressing records will place temper everyone’s ambition. “We’ve more than made up for the decline in CD production with our vinyl business. But, I don’t know where it’s headed,” Volna explains candidly. “It’s not going to grow year after year at the same rate that it has been, because at some point we’re going to run out of capacity and people are going to have to start investing in actually building new equipment.
“We’ll see what happens. It’s a boutique, niche product, but we love operating in niches, because you can hide there, and do your thing, and run a great small business. It’s kind of a lifestyle business, and we love music and like what we do. We’re a small company, with aspirations to be smaller, you know what I mean? We like the boutique quality of our business, and our clients are our friends, and it’s thrilling to participate in their success.”