Meet Kaitlyn Brown, a 2019 graduate from James Madison University with a degree in Music Industry. She is one of four team members, as well as the only woman employee, at Blue Sprocket Pressing in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Her focus there is on QC and packaging as well as social media.
Blue Sprocket is a team of musicians, technicians, record producers (literally), and vinyl collectors who care about music, and good quality vinyl records. Blue Sprocket grew out of a professional recording studio who saw their clients wanting a quicker solution for getting their music to vinyl. They opened Blue Sprocket Pressing to work closely with these musicians and record labels to create their release start to finish.
When Kaitlyn isn’t at work she is tending to her HUGE indoor plant collection, “…like, 150+ huge.” She loves going to greenhouses and finding cool plants to bring back home. She says they’ve been a great way for her to pause during busy days and remind herself to breathe. “They’ve really become a huge role in my own self care”.
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?
I had just (a little unwillingly) changed my degree concentration from music performance to music industry and was scrambling to find an internship that was local, in walking distance, and a little more hands on than just getting coffee. I came across the sister company of the pressing plant, a recording studio called Blue Sprocket Sound, snagged a phone interview, and became an intern for the summer of 2018. My internship was management focused, and I worked directly under the Studio Manager. The guys at Blue Sprocket instantly became family to me, and I never left. In the summer of 2019, I asked if I could do another internship, just for fun. I helped them put together a mobile recording studio for the Red Wing Music Festival, and shortly after that, I became an employee at Blue Sprocket Pressing.
What is a day in the life like?
Every day is a little different. I usually check in with Logan, the Operations Manager, and go over the priorities for the day. My main role is quality control and packaging, so I’m with the records from the time they get off the press until they get boxed up to be shipped. This includes everything from inspecting records for blemishes, sleeving and jacketing, to shrink wrapping, boxing, and labeling for shipment.
What has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
Working for a small and new business, I always get excited when we have projects that are a large quantity of records. This has been happening more and more frequently, and it’s so exciting watching this company grow first hand. As far as specific projects, we are currently working on an August Burns Red 12 inch. This is extra sentimental to me because August Burns Red was my first live concert experience, and knowing that I have a role in helping them make their record is so cool!
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
Honestly, I’m my own worst enemy. I pride myself in time management skills, and also being a perfectionist, but those two things don’t always work together well. When I first started, I used to be SO picky about any blemishes on records, and I’ve come to realize that there’s no such thing as a perfect record, but I can get pretty darn close. The longer I work here, the better I’ve gotten at figuring out the balance between speed and quality.
If you aren’t a vinyl collector yourself, what drew you to the industry?
I met one of the owners, Chris Jackson, when I was working on my internship at Blue Sprocket Sound. I’ve honestly never met a kinder person, and someone with so much passion for what he does every day. It’s inspiring and captivating. I knew nothing about the music industry, let alone the vinyl industry, until meeting him. His passion for the work that he does is contagious, and I quickly became interested in helping him in any capacity that I could, and that eventually led to me being hired.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
As cliche as it sounds, find a place that feels like home! There are plenty of jobs in the music industry.
Find something that you’re passionate about, and that the people you work with are passionate about, and that the owners are passionate about. It makes such a huge difference in building relationships and connections with people, and it also gives yourself the ability to bring that feeling of home to anywhere else you might go.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.
I don’t know what kind of magic is happening over at Gotta Groove with Wax Mage Records, but whatever it is, it is the COOLEST thing I have ever seen. Seeing how much attention goes into each individual record is so inspiring, and they just look awesome.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
BUY LOCAL! Support local artists in any way you can, and buy your music directly from them, through Bandcamp, or from local music shops. Buy gift cards at your favorite venues from pre-COVID times.
Speaking of current times, I saw the news on what happened with the fire. I’m glad to see no one was hurt, do you want to share more on that?
On October 17th, 2020, our sister company Blue Sprocket Sound, the recording studio that first welcomed me into this family, was decimated in a gas leak explosion. The entire building was destroyed, taking multiple other local businesses with it. Thankfully none of our employees were in the building at the time, and no one was seriously injured. We’ve received a crazy outpour of support from our community, especially the Harrisinburg music community, and we are hopeful for the day that we can rebuild and start creating music again. Blue Sprocket Pressing is housed at a different location, and fortunately suffered minimal damages from the explosion.
If anyone would like to support the relief fund please check out this link.
Tell me what you’re listening to right now.
I will forever be an emo kid at heart. My Chemical Romance will always be my favorite band, I had tickets to see them this September with my best friend until the tour got postponed. Right now, I’ve been really into solo female artists, like Orla Gartland, Tessa Violet, Phoebe Bridgers, and of course Hayley Williams.
Blue Sprocket Pressing: @bluesprocketpressing
Blue Sprocket Sound: @bluesprocketsound
Blue Sprocket: @bluesprocketpressing
Blue Sprocket Sound: @bluesprocketsound