The King County record plant has been in operation since 1946, and it’s a major piece of the record industry in the region.
It is currently producing some of the best music of the last generation, but that could change if the county can be more competitive.
In the early 1990s, a group of local artists and engineers launched the King Records label to promote the local music scene.
The label grew into a successful local indie rock and alternative radio station, with local artists performing in the city.
But by 2006, it was facing financial difficulties and needed a new home.
A new facility was the idea of local entrepreneur Michael Zielinski, but the process was slow.
“I had no idea what the process would look like, so we called on the people that I knew, like Joe Riggs and David Gavitt, who were local musicians and were in charge of the plant, to do it,” he says.
The facility was built in a former warehouse, but it was the right fit for a growing local music industry.
“They could really use a record player now,” he explains.
“It was like a new facility, but with a record playing.”
The record player came to be known as a record changer.
“It was so big that it had to be able to hold five or six records at a time,” says Zielinks.
The new facility would hold 50,000 records, but in 2017, it had just over 20,000.
In 2019, it began to lose money.
And in 2020, the county began closing records and consolidating production to other facilities.
Zielinski decided to put together a new record plant.
With a new owner, the company was able to put out records in more places, and now it’s working on a second facility, which is expected to open in 2021.
But the record player’s demise is not just a local concern.
For local artists, record playing is a crucial part of their identity.
The record store’s logo has been a symbol of their local community for years.
“The people that run the record store are like family, and that’s what I’m trying to keep,” says David Gagner.
“When the record is done, they’re like family and I’m going to keep playing it.”
With record sales falling, record stores across the country have been closing, and Zielinskis hopes to find a new buyer for the facility.
“You can’t just go to a new company and say, ‘OK, I’ll get a new lease and we’re going to do the record, and we’ll have the record playing,'” he says, “You have to have a commitment from the landlord to make that happen.”
For now, record-playing is still a job for some local musicians.
“We have our own record store, and I’ve been able to keep that going for a while,” says Dave Gagger.
But now, there’s more competition.