New south Minneapolis vinyl pressing plant aims to make records for local artists and labels

Two people pose in front of a brick wall.
Sara Pette (left) and Alex Stillman (right) plan to open a vinyl record pressing plant in South Minneapolis, along with Sara's brother John Pette.
Connor Lynch // Courtesy of Outta Wax

Saturday was Record Store Day, a day meant to drive people to independent stores where records are sold and recommended around the country.

But this is a story about the places where records are made.

A new vinyl pressing plant is set to open in the Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis this year. It’s called Outta Wax.

Sara Pette and Alex Stillman are two of its three founders. They joined MPR News host Nina Moini to talk about the impact of the vinyl boom on independent artists and how they are bringing their connections in the DIY music scene into plastic manufacturing.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

Subscribe to the Minnesota Now podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.  

We attempt to make transcripts for Minnesota Now available the next business day after a broadcast. When ready they will appear here.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

Audio transcript

NINA MOINI: It's Minnesota Now. I'm Nina Moini in for Cathy Wurzer. But this past Saturday was Record Store Day, a day meant to drive people to the independent stores where records are sold and recommended around the country. But right now, we're going to talk about one of the places where records are made. A new vinyl pressing plant is set to open in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis this year. It's called Out of Wax. Sara Pette and Alex Stillman are two of its three founders. They're bringing their local music connections and DIY ethos into plastic manufacturing, and they're joining me now to talk about it. Sara and Alex, thanks for being here.

SARA PETTE: Thank you, Nina.


NINA MOINI: Yeah. So, Alex, let me start with you, if I might. Vinyl has made a huge comeback in recent years, but there have been some reports that vinyl manufacturers can't even keep up and that independent labels and artists are the ones who are really losing out in that. Does that reflect in what you've seen, Alex?

ALEX STILLMAN: Yeah, I was working at a local record store, Extreme Noise, that mostly relied on small indie labels and individual releases, and we saw our weekly intake kind of slowed down with the resurgence of vinyl because it was harder for artists to make their records as fast as they once were.

NINA MOINI: Yeah. And so I hear that you two were in a band together, and you actually worked in a record store. So how did you go from making your own music together to making the physical media where the music is stored, Sara?

SARA PETTE: Yes. So we-- as some people may know, there was quite a backlog in the record-pressing industry for quite a while, which really threatened the ability of local DIY bands to make their records in a timely manner. When we started this idea, we were faced with 12-month wait times or sometimes more for people to get their records. So we just wanted to-- it's a bit of a drop in the bucket, but we wanted to expand that capacity to our local DIY community.

NINA MOINI: I love that. I think that those are the best businesses, right, where you see a need. And then you dive in and you try to help make that need a reality for people. We should mention that the other founder of the business is actually your older brother, Sara, John, and I wondered if he's sort of influenced your interest in music. I know I have a sister who is four years older. And I just grew up listening to whatever she listened to.

SARA PETTE: Absolutely. You hit the nail right on the head. So, yes, John is 11 years my senior, so we're sort of two only children. But I still looked up to him very much. So when I was a teenager, he actually bought me my first record player. And it's actually still my record player. It held up over 20 years. But yeah, he and I have really bonded over music together. And when I had this idea in 2020, I asked him, would you like to start a record-pressing plant with me? And he said he'd always wanted to do something like that. So our values aligned then and now.

NINA MOINI: I love that. It makes you sort of nostalgic in a way. And I wonder, Alex, why you think vinyl and other mediums like cassette tapes and things like that are still so special to people.

ALEX STILLMAN: Yeah. I think as people move to streaming, they miss the tangible connection they have with artists and building a collection that they can hold in their hand. And it creates a connection that you can't get anywhere else.

NINA MOINI: Yeah, definitely. Alex, can you just briefly paint a picture of what it takes to make records at a pressing plant? Like, what does that look like?

ALEX STILLMAN: Well, the pressing plant is kind of the end of the line for the record-making process. So an artist will record a piece of music. And then they'll send it to a mastering engineer to get mastered. And then it'll be made in a master lacquer. So a different type of plastic, and that master lacquer goes to a plating facility where it becomes electroplated and then-- which so it makes the inverse of the master. And that's what gets sent to us. And we get to put it on our machines into a mold and smash a little plastic puck into your phonograph record.


ALEX STILLMAN: I think that was the fastest I've ever explained that.

NINA MOINI: Yeah, wow. It was like, Siri, and then you did it. So I'm trying to get a sense for what this business landscape is like. I know back in 2022, Copycats media opened a large record-pressing plant in Maple Grove. Do you expect to see more of this in Minnesota? I'll just ask Alex.

ALEX STILLMAN: Probably not. It's a really difficult infrastructure to get started. Copycats Media had been making CDs and tapes for a really long time. So they kind of had that infrastructure built in. So I don't really see it becoming a common practice.

NINA MOINI: Sure. Yeah. Well, I mean, even more special. That's great. And you can both answer this next question. I'll start with you, Sara. What does it mean to you to be opening this type of a business and in South Minneapolis?

SARA PETTE: Yeah. So Alex and I both come from the, as you said before, the DIY music community. So there is a long backstory as to this, but it does really feel meaningful to open in South Minneapolis. The local neighborhood that we operate in, many of our employees-- and Alex lives in the immediate vicinity-- and just means a lot to be just off of Lake Street in this time, postuprising.

NINA MOINI: Yeah. Yeah. And Alex, I understand that it's OK with you if we discuss some of what happened last summer after the mass shooting at the punk show and how that impacted you and just the music scene.

ALEX STILLMAN: Yeah. So that was-- basically affected our direct community, our friends and who are also our employees. So having to be able to do a project like this to support our community in the aftermath of something like that, it feels like-- it just feels like a big win to us. And it really is like a driving force to keep going. My family also has a long history of having businesses along the Lake Street corridor, grocery stores since the 1920s. So it also just feels like really good to put our energy and back into the community, our direct community.

NINA MOINI: Amazing. Whenever you start an endeavor like this, I just wonder, what's been the most difficult part of opening the factory and then what's been the most rewarding? And you can go first if you want, Sara.

SARA PETTE: Yes, so there are many. We've been through many, many hoops. There have been many obstacles in the way. And we're still here. We're still persevering. The hardest part has been, honestly, being majority women owned has actually not helped us in some ways. We don't come from-- Alex does come from a manufacturing background, but we don't come from a plastic manufacturing background. So that was getting someone to understand what kind of infrastructure we were trying to build, what kind of plant we were trying to build was really difficult. It was quite time consuming.

But the most rewarding part has been connecting with people over records. So you can make all kinds of assumptions about who collects records, who thinks records are important. But so many of our contractors and people who come to work with us have a story about records. Either they collect them, have a really cool sound system at home, or they used to be a radio DJ, or their kid has a turntable and just got into records, that kind of thing. So connecting with people about the very music that we're putting onto the records, as well as the tangible record itself, has been really rewarding.

NINA MOINI: Yeah. What about you, Alex?

ALEX STILLMAN: Yeah, I agree totally with Sara. The hardest part has definitely been just the infrastructure, the mechanical infrastructure. Just because we know records, and we know what a good record looks and sounds like and how to press one, but just the steam system was just-- it's been a really steep learning curve, but it also has been really rewarding. I was able to learn how to manually cut on a record lathe, which is directly a sound to a disc, which kind of just feels like magic. And that was really rewarding. And now I can offer that service live and teach people more about records. And yeah, just meeting people all the time that really connect with the media has been awesome.

NINA MOINI: Amazing. And so I understand you don't have an official launch date yet but that you're waiting on some inspections but that you will be taking orders. And thank you both just so much for coming by and sharing this really neat business with us.

SARA PETTE: Thank you so much for having us.

NINA MOINI: That's Sara Pette and Alex Stillman, founders of Out of Wax, a record-pressing plant opening soon in South Minneapolis.

Download transcript (PDF)

Transcription services provided by 3Play Media.