Who doesn’t enjoy having a look behind the scenes at how the thing we all love so much is made? We had the pleasure of interviewing Cait Ilchuk who is the sales and label manager at Independent Record Pressing (IRP) in Bordentown, NJ. IRP was founded in 2015 by Dave Hansen (formerly General Manager of Epitaph) and Darius Van Arman, Ben Swanson, & Chris Swanson from the Secretly Group with the vision to have a plant that supports and presses for independent labels. The plant started with 6 vintage Hamilton Presses made in the late 70s/early 80s and today has a total of eight 12″ presses using new technology from the likes of Viryltech.
When Cait’s not helping records get made she says she loves sports and is a die hard Islanders fan, but has converted to Philly teams now. “I try to get to a handful of hockey games every year“. She also enjoys reading, running, playing guitar, and hanging out at the beach. She’s recently become a dog mom as well, we can’t wait to see photos!
How did you get into your industry / What motivated you to get into it?
I’ve wanted to work in music since I was about 13. I’ve tried out a lot of different jobs within the industry from on-site event work to booking to marketing/PR. I always loved playing music growing up, but had the worst stage fright of all time and absolutely hated performing for people. Because of that, I decided to focus on working in the industry in a way where I could be more behind the scenes helping out the artists in any way I could. The big turning point for me was moving to Philadelphia when I was in college and getting involved in the DIY scene in the city. I made a ton of friends through that community and it’s been really cool to watch all of us grow over the last 5-10 years and turn that passion into careers!
What is a day in the life like?
On a typical day, I have my 45 minute commute and get to work at 9 (with an iced coffee the size of my head, because otherwise I can’t function haha). To start my day, I run through my emails to see if any urgent questions came in overnight that I can answer quickly. Then, I go through and update our production numbers and daily inventory receiving in our master spreadsheet to keep track of where we’re at on all of our current and upcoming projects. After that, we have our daily production meeting around 9:30. Most of my day after that is usually spent doing item entry in our inventory system, making sales orders and work orders for all of our projects, doing phone meetings with our core group of labels that we work with, ordering necessary components for projects, and dealing with any questions or issues that come up along the way. At the end of the day, I update our daily shipping numbers to keep track of which jobs completed. I really like doing a little bit of everything because it gives me a thorough understanding of what’s needed start to finish in order to make sure that a job runs smoothly and we deliver the best product we can. It also makes it easier for me to answer any questions that come in from labels on their projects.
In your opinion what has been your favorite / the coolest thing you’ve worked on?
I’m honestly not sure that I can pick one particular project on this one. I still get really excited every time we get to press something for an artist I grew up listening to. I love the feeling of everything coming full circle.
At the end of a stressful day it’s something that reminds me how lucky I am to get to work somewhere that my teenage self wouldn’t believe was even an option.
What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?
The most difficult part of my job has been the vinyl boom we’ve seen explode over the last year, which is ironic because that’s a very good problem for us to have. I’ve been at IRP for 3 years, and the growth just from when I’ve started has been crazy to watch. With it being a smaller company, we all wear a lot of hats here and everybody is always ready to help each other out, which is awesome. I transitioned into this role not too long after we significantly increased our capacity, so I’ve just been trying to focus on keeping pace with the orders that come in every day. It’s definitely fast-paced and can feel really high pressure some days, but it’s so cool to be able to be a part of creating somebody’s art!
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?
My biggest piece of advice would just be to get involved in your local music scene and try everything that you possibly can. I’m pretty shy so I was terrified to insert myself into such a busy, tight knit community but I’m glad I finally did. Being able to try out a bunch of different types of jobs surrounded by friends made me feel way more comfortable once I was ready to start applying to jobs in the industry. I’d also say to always be kind and humble to the people you come up with because, as cliche as it sounds, the industry is super small and you’ll most likely end up working with a lot of those people again.
Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?
I’ve had an average sized vinyl collection since about 2012 or 2013. A lot of my friends have easily over 150-200 records, so compared to them I feel pretty reasonable! I just like the feeling of making such a conscious decision to buy and listen to music. Playing a record at home is something that relaxes me. It forces me to slow down and think about what I’d really like to hear, then sit down and pay closer attention to it than I would otherwise. I look at records as a labor of love. They’re big and take up space and aren’t at all convenient to play, so buying them and playing them feels more intentional than just throwing an artist or playlist on shuffle in the background.
What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about?
I’m both excited and a little scared about how much the vinyl industry has grown in the last few years. I think it’s great that so many people are starting to get into collecting, but I’m a little wary about the bubble popping. I’m not sure that the high demand we’re seeing right now is permanent, so I’m curious to see how an end to the pandemic and readjustment to being out and about in public again will affect that. It’s been fun for me to get into the industry when I did because my dad gets excited about some of the jobs we run, but I’ve also been able to introduce some younger friends/family members to vinyl and help them start a little collection.
During this time we’re currently in, what message do you have for music and vinyl fans? How can we support you, the industry?
Please just be patient with us! The demand for vinyl has completely outdone our expectations in the last year or two, and every plant in the country is maxed out on capacity. I can never seem to get my inbox fully current anymore, which is a good thing because we’re making more records than we ever have, but it definitely takes me a lot longer to get through everything than it used to. All the vinyl plant employees have worked SO hard to get albums out throughout the pandemic and they’ve done a great job. We realize things are moving slower than normal and not everything is going to come out perfect every time and that’s frustrating, but please try to consider all of the work that assembly and press workers put in to make the project happen during a time when every aspect of their lives (and jobs) was turned upside down.
Anything else you want to share? If not, tell me what you’re listening to: