At A&R Records, Business Was Reignited by the Flaming Lips
It's a Saturday morning—one of those almost painfully beautiful ones—and Stan Getz is stuck inside a warehouse on Riverfront Boulevard.
There are worse fates.
Getz knows this firsthand. Just a few years back, the machines at A&R Records, the vinyl record press Getz owns and operates with the help of three employees, would sometimes run only one or two days a week. These days, though, the shop is thriving—a seven-days-a-week operation, even. And the task at hand on this day is an exciting one: pressing and packaging a run of records for Daptone Records out of Brooklyn, New York.
The album, a compilation release called Daptone Gold, features such artists as Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and The Budos Band, two staples of the retro-obsessed funk and soul label's roster. It's a fairly straightforward effort on A&R's part—just some traditional black vinyl.
"Nowadays, people are getting really into color," Getz says, sidestepping his way through the mass of machinery, boxes and raw materials that fill his rather nondescript shop, where he's been working since 1983. "Lucky for us, we do some of that here."
Over in the far corner of the warehouse, bag upon bag of vinyl beads are stacked. They come in all sorts of colors—vivid reds, lucid oranges, mish-mashes of blues and purples, and, of course, the standard black.
Traditionally, the colors have been used individually. But more recently—at the request of the Flaming Lips, who learned of A&R from a friend who'd previously used his services—Getz has been experimenting at combining the colors. The results are eye-catching: By tossing in a handful of one color into his vinyl press feeders here, and another color there, he's figured out how to make records that pop but don't hiss: The colors either blend (yellow and red make orange, and so on) or, more often, congeal beside one another, creating wildly vivid, multi-color discs that resemble sunbursts.
Each is a one-of-a-kind creation. Getz and his staff can't recreate their efforts from one disc to another. For provocative acts like the Flaming Lips, that's an obvious draw.
But the oddball Oklahoma favorites aren't the only big-name act using A&R's services. Getz, who bought the shop from its previous owners four years ago, scratches his head as he recalls some of the bigger ones. There was a run of records for Prince once. Beyonce, too. More recently, he's done work for the Smashing Pumpkins and a whole lot of discs for Relapse Records. More locals than he can count, too—something he says he really gets a kick out of. A couple weeks back, the folks behind the suddenly resurgent Good Records Recordings label (home to the Polyphonic Spree, among others) reached out to him about pressing a run of seven-inches. And, just last week, he confirmed a new order for Idol Records (The O's, Here Holy Spain), who, after a long resistance, are also getting into the vinyl game.
For years, music experts have credited the vinyl resurgence with saving the industry—for stores and labels alike. But, perhaps more than anyone else, it's places like A&R that are benefiting most. For a while, Getz worried that he might have to close the shop.
"More than a few different times, actually," he says with a humble shrug. "The rap era really kept us alive in the '90s. DJs that still used records needed them. Then it was the dance music—like the stuff you hear at the Lizard Lounge and all that. When that died, all of a sudden the rock stuff came back."
Especially at A&R, where the Flaming Lips have served as unofficial spokespeople. Seemingly every time the band's frontman, Wayne Coyne, stops by to check on his latest order, he tweets about it, informing his band's almost half a million Twitter followers about the shop's capabilities. (Read more about Coyne's fondness for the shop on page 12.)
"When Wayne started tweeting about us or whatever, people really started finding out about us," Getz says. "It's all word of mouth."
And with all six of the shop's machines humming and spewing out records behind him, the word, clearly, is good—even if Getz himself, a lifer in the industry, isn't quite sold on the medium.
"It's funny," he says with a laugh. "I listen to the radio for my music. I don't even own a turntable back at my home."
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