Photo: Sina Schuldt/picture alliance via Getty Images
Photo: Sina Schuldt/picture alliance via Getty Images
In recent years vinyl records have become increasingly difficult to obtain. GRAMMY.com unpacks how supply shortages, long waits and soaring retail costs are impacting the music industry.
When sales of compact discs overtook records in the late 1980s, it looked as if the era of the vinyl record was coming to an end. By the early 1990s, vinyl production had all but ceased. Plants either closed or made the transition to CD production.
But as the rise in digital formats – specifically downloads and streaming – began to take over from CDs, vinyl returned. Listeners who found something missing in the digital age once again turned to the tangible format of vinyl records. Sales have been on a steady incline ever since 2006: in 2021 vinyl LPs sold nearly 42 million units. That may seem insignificant when compared to a high of over 500 million units sold circa 1980, but it represents a significant portion of today's music retail sales.
Yet in recent years – even before the pandemic – vinyl records have become increasingly difficult to obtain. Despite the opening of new record pressing plants (as well as existing plants ramping up capacity), supply shortages and extremely long wait times for product delivery have become commonplace; vinyl pressing orders routinely have a lead time of 9-12 months. And retail costs for both stores and consumers have skyrocketed. What are the factors causing bottlenecks, shortages and higher prices? GRAMMY.com takes a look into this timely issue.
In an ideal world, an artist's new album becomes available for purchase all at once in three formats: CD, digital download and vinyl. In the real world, however, vinyl records' supply vs. demand and other issues make simultaneous release unlikely — if not impossible.
"We are quoting five to six months right now," says Gar Ragland, founder and CEO of Citizen Vinyl, an Asheville, North Carolina manufacturer that began operations in 2020. And Citizen Vinyl's turnaround is better than the prevailing industry-wide wait time. "One of the things that's really helped us is that when we opened our doors, we had a whole blank slate of a calendar to fill," he explains. "So we were able to offer a much more competitive turn time than pressing plants who already had an existing book of business." He notes that other plants are quoting 9-12 months for vinyl pressing orders.
"We have a 20 week turn for clients who have locked in capacity chunks," says Dustin Blocker of Texas-based Hand Drawn Pressing. For new clients, he notes, "we are currently quoting April of next year to get any size of project." As recently as 2018, plants could deliver product within a four- to six-week window.
The vinyl production demands from major labels place a strain on the plants, and inevitably smaller, independent labels can find their orders receiving lower priority. In March, recording artist Jack White (owner of Third Man Records, a label with its own in-house pressing operation) wrote an open letter to the industry, urging the labels to do the same and build pressing plants of their own.
In one sense, the challenge is simple: The combined capacity of all domestic vinyl pressing plants simply can't keep pace with market demand. In practical terms, the delay in vinyl production means that artists and labels often face a stark choice: Hold back release of CD and digital versions until the vinyl is ready, or release the other formats now and hope that demand still exists months later when the vinyl record finally becomes available.
"Unfortunately, the standard is that the CD is going to be ready before the vinyl," says Mark Capon, co-owner of Asheville, North Carolina indie retailer Harvest Records. "But I do think there are plenty of artists and labels that really prioritize having it all at the same time." He suggests that smaller, independent record labels might be more reliant upon revenue from vinyl than some of their major-label counterparts.
The Apollo Masters fire of February 2020 would seem to have been a contributing factor to the vinyl bottleneck. The only plant in North America equipped to manufacture vinyl lacquer discs — a key step in the manufacturing process — Apollo sustained a three-alarm fire that completely destroyed its facility. But while Apollo rebuilds, most pressing plants have shifted their lacquer sourcing to MDC, a manufacturer in Tokyo, Japan. "Most of the mastering engineers I know were already set up with both Apollo and MDC," says Mark Michaels of North America's oldest and largest vinyl record manufacturer, United Record Pressing in Nashville, Tennessee.
The simplest solution to ease the vinyl record shortage would seem to be an increase in production. And that's happening. "Right now, we manufacture around 35-40,000 records a day," says Michaels. "And that number is going to go up rapidly over the next 12 to 18 months." He estimates that when fully upgraded, United's capacity will increase "by a factor of 2.5, maybe more."
But expanding plant capacity — and bringing new plants online — takes time. "Record presses are really scarce right now," Michaels says. He believes that the major builders of presses are quoting at least two years from order to delivery.
According to Bryan Ekus of the industry trade group Vinyl Record Manufacturers Association, by summer's end there will be 43 record pressing plants in the U.S., plus nine in Canada and three in Mexico. Dustin Blocker notes that those numbers illustrate the industry's commitment to servicing demand. "When we launched Hand Drawn as a broker in 2014," he says, "there were only 15 plants in all of North America."
"Everybody's in growth mode now," says Alex Cushing, Blocker's business partner and Hand Drawn co-founder. And he says that right now, the labels are focusing their production orders on new releases rather than older, or catalog, titles. "The quickest return is on the hottest records," he says. "You want to make sure that the current artists are finding the full return on their music investment."
Citizen Vinyl started operations during the pandemic, and manufactures 2,000-2,500 records a day. "We have a fully manual press and two automatic ones," says Gar Ragland. "We're pressing records 12 hours a day, seven days a week." Asked if additional shifts are being considered, Ragland says that the company's plan is to "increase volume by keeping the machines up and running as long as they can do so safely," but notes that training experienced press operators takes time. "The bottleneck now is personnel," he explains. "Machines don't get tired, but people do."
Inspired by the 2019 Making Vinyl conference, several industry leaders decided to create the Vinyl Record Manufacturers Association. Dustin Blocker recalls the conversation. "Quite a few of us from the supply chain – not just record manufacturers — were meeting in between the conferences, and we started ruminating about all the issues at the time: capacity constraints, supply chain issues, how to communicate with clients." The idea of the VRMA came out of those informal discussions. "We thought, ‘How about we take it a little deeper, put some action in place and help train the industry best practices,'" Blocker says.
After a pandemic-forced pause, the group is gearing up for a membership push at this year's Making Vinyl conference in Nashville. "We had 20 members at the early adopters meeting," says Bryan Ekus. "Our target is to have 50 members soon, and then widen the scope." A fundamental goal of the organization is to get the word out that while Europe has many plants, vinyl pressing is being done right here in North America as well, and it's growing.
Harvest Records' Capon says that at least half of his store's inventory is new vinyl, with about 30 percent used records and a mere 20 percent compact discs. Generally, stocking records isn't a problem. "Since the resurgence began, there are more records than ever being pressed," he observes. It's only when trying to stock specific titles that a problem arises.
"There don't seem to be any issues getting the new Harry Styles or Adele in whatever quantity you want," says Jim Henderson of California retailer Amoeba Music. "The problem affects particular titles," agrees Capon, adding that catalog albums are particularly affected by shortages."Say, Nirvana's Nevermind or The Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream is gone right now, but in their place is something that was unavailable before.'"
But even when a certain title is ostensibly available, getting enough copies to meet consumer demand is not a given. Shipments to stores often include less than what was ordered. "We'll order 10 and get three," Capon says. When that happens enough times, a store buyer might decide to order more than he or she needs, just to get the desired number of records. "Sometimes that works out. But sometimes, ‘Oh, we got the full 25. Now what are we going to do?'" he continues.
Larger retailers face the same obstacles, albeit on a larger scale. Amoeba often schedules pre-orders for upcoming, high-demand titles. "We'll have a commitment to get a certain amount of titles in to be able to feed that and still have plenty for the store," says Amoeba's Henderson. "Then there's the reality: when we open up the box, we got a percentage of what we were expecting to get. It's challenging when you think you're getting 90 of something and get 14 [instead]. Pressing plants simply can't produce enough records quickly enough – and in sufficient numbers – to meet demand.
Major music retailers like Amoeba Music offer a more diversified range of products including CDs and other merchandise, so they're less affected by vinyl shortages. New vinyl represents about 20 percent of the California chain's inventory, which offers a significant selection of used records and CDs. But the store isn't completely immune from the negative effects of having to tell a customer they don't have a given title.
"It affects us the way it would affect any retailer trying to get what people want into their hands," Henderson explains. "One of the challenges we face is finding a way to articulate that it's not for a lack of effort." He says that if a customer comes up empty-handed when looking for a specific vinyl record, they might infer that "maybe we're not trying to get that title, or that it's bad buying." To counter that misapprehension, Henderson says that Amoeba makes a point of using social media to announce when titles come back into stock.
Some of the perceived high cost of vinyl records can be explained by a combination of inflationary pressures and the passage of time. During vinyl's heyday in the 1970s and ‘80s, customary list price for a single-disc LP ranged from $5.98 to $8.98. Adjusting only for inflation, that $8.98 record that sold in 1982 can be expected to sell for $26.63 today.
But inflation doesn't explain away the cost differential. "A standard new record for a major artist can cost $45," says Kevin Smokler, co-director of the new documentary film Vinyl Nation. "It probably shouldn't cost $45; we're basically paying people the same way we did in 1975." He believes the disparity between consumer wages and prices "creates an unequal system [in which] people without access to resources are second class citizens. And we don't like that at all."
Some consumers agree with that sentiment. "There is a backlash happening," observes Harvest Records co-owner Mark Capon. "People don't want to pay $40 for a new Harry Styles record. They'll say, ‘I'm just going to stream it.'" He believes that when the prices soar to excessive levels, neither the consumer, retailer or record company wins. "New vinyl prices have gotten prohibitively expensive; if you're a working person with limited expendable income, you're getting priced out."
Alex Cushing asks a rhetorical yet relevant question. "What's the ceiling for a record for the consumer?" He notes that when he sees a black vinyl record with a $35 price tag, he grimaces. "But we grew up in a world of $9.99," he says. Younger record buyers may have entered the marketplace when vinyl sold for $22. "For them, $30 isn't a major increase."
Cushing emphasizes that quality can make or ruin the experience of buying a record. "$30, and you open the record and it's not great — and it's eight months later than you wanted it — then I'm not sure [you're] buying a second record."
Vinyl records are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a petroleum-based plastic. And as Gar Ragland of Citizen Vinyl observes, petroleum-based products have been increasing in price. Since his plant opened in 2020, Ragland says that the price of PVC "has increased three times. We have had to pass that coast along, adjusting our price to our clients accordingly. And I imagine every other pressing plant has done the same." He notes that because of high demand, there has been relatively little resistance from record companies. "It's just the cost of doing business," he says.
In addition to the increasing cost of raw materials, "the real fluctuating cost is shipping and transportation," says Cushing. Acknowledging the current high price of petroleum (and derivative products like PVC), he emphasizes that "it's really nothing in relation to freight costs." Choosing his words carefully, he says, "that industry has seemed to allow itself the most leeway in supply-and-demand pricing."
Still, the issue is a complex one. While many manufacturing processes are partially or completely automated, the pressing of vinyl records remains a labor-intensive process with many manual steps. "The way we make records now is basically how we've been making records forever," says Vinyl Nation co-director Christopher Boone. "It hasn't really changed. It's focused on human beings at many different stages: cutting the lacquers, doing all the plating, actually pressing the records. And that costs money. Then, if you want really cool packaging, that too costs money."
After a decade-plus without vinyl records, the resurgence that began in the early 21st century shows no sign of subsiding. "As we've spoken with our customers, there seems to be a lot of confidence that the reasons people are buying vinyl are real and sustainable," says United Record Pressing's Mark Michaels.
He notes that vinyl records are now seen as a complement to streaming and digital consumption, and the retail channels support that. "You're seeing a lot of titles sold in Target and Walmart," Michaels observes. "And they're having success. When those retailers get behind a title or category, the orders are enormous."
He acknowledges that the responsibility for filling those orders falls upon manufacturers like United. "If we're going to be a legitimate supply chain partner to the major labels, we better be able to turn large orders fast with service levels that are in line with what they need.
"I don't have a crystal ball," Michaels says. "But I'm a believer."
Alex Cushing acknowledges the challenges but expresses cautious optimism coupled with a sense of urgency. "We have a short window to fix the problems," he says. "And unfortunately, not all these problems are under our control, so I think there are some choppy waters out there. But I think the conditions look favorable."
Bryan Ekus makes note of market forces: "As long as [consumers] are willing to pay $30 for a black record, demand should continue." Amoeba's Henderson makes a similar observation from the retail perspective. "We are concerned that at a certain point, the price tag is going to be detrimental to the collectors," he says. "But the product is such a good product, and people are engaging with it in different ways, so I'd like to think that a few years from now, we'll see steadier fills and consistent access.
Mark Capon of Harvest Records emphasizes that vinyl records aren't a fad. "I think they'll be here for a long time," he says. "And I'm happy about that."
The CD was first commercially released 40 years ago and may be having a whole new coming-of-age. With sales on the rise and collectors showcasing their pride across social media, the format might rewind to its glory years.
For decades, a CD was something you could hold in your hand or carry with you in a semi-sleek binder that might move from your home to your car. Once you got past the surprisingly difficult shrink wrap, you proudly displayed your collection with the spines facing out. And when your favorite CD got scratched, it was the worst day ever.
"I know you just ripped the packaging off your CD/If you like me, you reading the credits right now," says Jay-Z on "Hova Song," the intro from his 1999 album Vol. 3 The Life and Times of S. Carter. The activities Jay-Z refers to may be foreign to most music fans in 2022.
To think that there was a period of time where artists routinely sold millions of albums on compact disc is almost unbelievable in 2022. Today, No. 1 album sales are generally the result of streams, only a small portion of physical sales accounting for hits.
Although CDs have primarily been replaced by all-you-can-consume music streaming services, something interesting happened in 2021: CD sales rose for the first time in almost two decades, driving over $580 million in revenue for the music industry. While that pales in comparison to the $12.3 billion earned from streaming, the figure is still significant.
"We've been pleasantly surprised to see there is still a CD customer at this store," says George Flanagan, who manages the popular New York City record store Rough Trade. “It's less than 10 percent of our business, but that's very much in line with the smaller selection we carry."
The music industry has its biggest stars to thank for last year's bump in CD sales. Notable releases by superstar artists such as BTS, Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and Adele had passionate fans buying up CD versions of their new releases. Adele's 2021 album, 30, sold over 5 million copies worldwide in its first year — 880,000 of those sales were in the form of physical CDs.
But who is still buying CDs, spurring the format's first growth year since *NSYNC was still topping charts. The surprising answer is Gen Z — those born in the mid to late 1990s through early 2000s, when CD players were about to be rendered nearly obsolete with thedebut of Apple's iPod in October 2001. That same generation has been gobbling up new releases in the CD format, taking TikTok todisplay their collections proudly.
And CDs aren’t the only physical music format from the past that are sparking renewed interest. In 2021, vinyl record sales grew for the 15th consecutive year to $1 billion in revenue. Cassette sales had their highest sales numbers since 2003, selling 200,000 units, a 20 percent increase over 2020.
“What I've been struck with lately is that some younger customers seem to give the same reverence to CDs as they do with vinyl," notes Flanagan. "I think this stems from the fact that they've come of age in a world where music consumption is all digital, so any physical format potentially holds an equal level of mystique."
As younger generations rediscover compact discs, and sales of the format begin to generate notable revenue for the music industry, it begs the question: Can CDs make a real comeback?
A Love Affair With CDs
To answer this question, one must go back to what made CDs revolutionary in the first place. The compact disc was invented in 1979 and the first commercially released CD (Billy Joel's 52nd Street) was released in Japan on Oct. 1, 1982. Following the cassette tape era that debuted in the '60s and peaked in 1989, CDs brought significantly more convenience for the music consumer. CDs allowed listeners to skip directly to songs with ease, held more data, and allowed for additional creativity with customized artwork on the actual disk.
From the red lipstick kiss on Aerosmith’s Honkin’ on Bobo cover to the cartoon Vicodin pill on Eminem's groundbreaking debut, The Slim Shady LP, CDs became a canvas for artistic expression and allowed fans to delve into an entire body of work — which had arguably been missing since vinyl LPs went out of style.
Over 940 million CD units were shipped in the US in 2000 — an industry peak. That year's staggering sales numbers were a confluence of pop culture phenomenon, due in part to <em>NSYNC's No Strings Attached (which sold over 9 million units, highlighting the boy band craze) and Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP* (over 7 million units). MTV’s "Total Request Live" — a music video countdown show shot above New York City'’s Times Square — averaged 780,000 viewers per episode that year, and was a must-visit for the pop stars of the day to talk about their new releases, furthering album sales.
"The CD was a total boom for the music industry — people purchased 17,18, 19-track albums to listen to one or two songs repeatedly," says Brian Zisook, SVP Operations at music streaming service Audiomack. "[But] it wasn't ideal for the cash-strapped consumer."
At an average of $15 (or the equivalent of $25 today), the economics of purchasing an entire album on CD to hear a handful of songs was hard to justify in 2000. But the one thing the CD era offered, which is challenging in the streaming era, is tangible value.
There was something special about driving to the mall and going to your favorite record store, sometimes waiting excitedly in line for a hot new release on a Tuesday morning. Because of their relatively high cost, buying a CD was something special, and consumers had to be discriminatory with their album purchases, potentially giving them more sentimental value. Today, outlets like California's popular Amoeba Records carry significant new and used CD stock, while CDs remain the format of choice in Japan.
"CDs remain a core element of Amoeba's sales and identity, as our second most popular format behind only Vinyl LPs," Jim Henderson, co-owner of Amoeba Music, tells GRAMMY.com. "They travel well, and sound great, and the small booklets, though not as powerful or attractive as LP jacket liner notes and full scale artwork, are compelling, and easy to flip through and enjoy."
It's not just the physical attachment to the music that has been lost in the streaming era. In some ways, streaming has made the playlist more valuable than the music itself. Clicking like on a song provides significantly less emotional attachment for a consumer than buying and holding a CD, cassette or vinyl record. In the physical format era, fans invested in their favorite artists.
"I think because vinyl, CDs and cassettes are tangible products, die-hard fans will continue to buy them," says Navjosh Singh, GRAMMY member and Founder and Editor of HipHop-N-More.com. "If not to play, then more like a collectible item."
The Uphill Battle For The CD Comeback
But challenges remain for the CD format to have a proper regeneration, including the fact that CD players are more difficult than ever to find.
A lack of new CD players on the market may stall the format's return, notes Zisook. "They have been removed from laptop computers and cars. In particular, I don't see record labels believing the juice is worth the squeeze," he continues. "Limited manufacturing is much more expensive and would likely only be a discussion among the highest-earning acts on a roster."
Even for artists from the golden era of CD sales, a return to the format's glory days seems unlikely. Buckshot, a legendary rap artist known for fronting groups like Black Moon and Boot Camp Clik, doesn't see a proper comeback as tech evolves.
"CDs had their moment," Buckshot tells GRAMMY.com. "Due to tech, we advance every two years. Somewhere a kid is thinking of new tech to give us a better user experience with music. Mp3s killed CDs, streaming killed the mp3, and now the blockchain will and is killing streaming due to ownership."
The impacts of blockchain and NFTs on the music industry remain to be seen, but one thing that can't be disputed is the convenience of streaming. Who can forget needing to carry CD booklets with you or in your car? Or the pain you felt when you lent your disc to a sibling who scratched it, rendering the album unplayable? Or how about losing your CD booklet and a large portion of your collection? Streaming makes listening to music seamless and easy. And in a world where people are already stretched for time, that's tough to beat.
"It's tough to add value to a CD because ultimately, it's a lot of effort to put it to use," says Singh. "Versus streaming which you can have ready anytime, anywhere without other things to carry and worry about. It's millions of songs in your palm. "
Amoeba's Henderson remains hopeful that CDs will become embraced by the masses once again. "I can envision a time where the CD market rebounds to former glory and the merits of the format are once again widely celebrated," he continues. "Artists like Tyler, The Creator and Frank Ocean have released CDs long before or in lieu of vinyl, examples of contemporary powerhouses helping keep CDs relevant."
It seems unlikely that music will return to the days of trips to the mall for the latest CD releases and record store listening booths, but 2021 sales data shows us that music fans still hunger for an emotional and physical attachment to their favorite music and artists. Once the most widely consumed physical music artifact, CDs have returned to being something special, cherished and celebrated amongst the most passionate music fans.
"The one thing they offered was the ability to play music without a need for the internet," says Buckshot. "It's never bad to keep a stash because you never know."
Long live the disc, man.
Photo: Marcelo Cantu
On her debut EP, Bella Poarch transforms from viral TikTok star to dark-pop queen — and most importantly, she finally gets to speak her truth.
When the world was first introduced to Bella Poarch in 2020, she was a viral TikToker without anyone hearing her voice. Poarch's lip-syncing videos (and undeniable charisma) rapidly garnered a following that exceeds 90 million, making her TikTok's third most-followed star and the top Asian American influencer in the world.
Now, Poarch is ready to take her success beyond TikTok — and let her voice be heard.
The young Filipina star ushers in a new persona as a dark-pop singer with her first EP, Dolls. The six-song project — which features her empowering debut single "Build a B—" — explores a spectrum of raw emotions as Bella continues to reveal her true self to fans.
As Poarch explained to GRAMMY.com, Dolls is a look into the ups and downs of her life. On songs like "Living Hell," she divulges the hardships she endured growing up; on others like the fierce title track, she showcases her creativity while also flexing her strength. It's clear that Poarch has a unique vision that resonates with many, and a goal to create an outlet for young women who may see themselves in her story.
In a candid conversation over Zoom, Poarch got real about her journey to stardom, the inspiration behind her first project, and why she wants to provide much-needed representation for fellow Filipinas.
Before you were a TikTok star, you served in the military, and you've been open about having a difficult childhood. So you've sort of lived a ton of lives, right? Do you think you've reinvented yourself at all? And how has your past impacted the music that you make now?
Growing up in the Philippines and switching to a whole different country taught me a lot. And also pushing myself to join the military taught me a lot. I did live different lives. But I was still the same when it comes to being hopeful and just like, manifesting good things in my life.
It also taught me to be less anxious, because I was very anxious as a kid. I wasn't really talking. My parents were not allowing me to speak whenever I wanted to. Now that I'm able to create music and be vocal about my feelings, I'm glad to be able to share my thoughts and express myself — and to be able to help other people — with my music.
This is your first EP, and a lot of your singles are largely about confidence. Is this a theme that's important to you?
Yes, because I myself struggle with confidence. I am a very shy person sometimes. And I guess it all depends on what I'm wearing and what I look like in a day. Like, you know, if I had my pigtails on, I'm 100 percent more confident than if I had just my hair down.
How did you get into that hairstyle?
Hatsune Miku. She's a Vocaloid. She's anime. I got a lot of inspiration from anime.
That's cool. So is it kind of like an alter ego?
Yeah, pretty much.
"Build A B—" had a pretty huge debut. Did you feel a sort of pressure after that, and how did its success affect you?
I was just really shocked that people were like, loving it. And I was like, "Wow, I'm very proud of myself." Because it was really hard to figure out what first song I wanted to release. And it was very important to me. I was like, "Uh, do I really want [to release a song called] 'Build A B—?'" Like…yes. [Laughs.]
There was a lot of going back and forth. I was just really happy that my fans love it.
What's the story behind "Living Hell" and its music video?
The music video takes a lot of inspiration from my childhood room and how I'm struggling to escape it. And now I'm struggling to escape my childhood trauma.
I've been very open about it with social media and it has helped me a lot. It's hard for me to express my feelings. But it also helped other people that are struggling with expressing themselves.
The room in the music video is yellow — everything's yellow. It's because I grew up in a yellow bedroom with yellow curtains and yellow tiled floors. And I was basically forced into that color. My parents were like, "You're gonna love this color. This is your room color." And I feel like that's them showing me that they had the power.
Over time, growing up in that room, I learned to love it because it's a happy color. Sorry, I'm getting emotional.
There is a lot of symbolism in the music video. I think I will be explaining what it means later on. But when people see it at first, they're probably confused, because they don't really know the inspiration from it — me escaping from my childhood trauma. When you see that music video without that context, you're just like, "Wow, this is art!" But when you really see the full meaning of it, it takes you to a different perspective.
What was your inspiration for making this whole EP? Obviously there's songs that are a little bit emotional, but there are also songs that are more upbeat. How does it all come together?
I think what inspired me the most and to do this is speaking up. Even [in] my journey with TikTok, I wasn't speaking for a whole year — nobody knew what I sounded like. And so they were all just like, "Whoa" when I started talking. They were like, "Wait, she talks?"
Me releasing music and releasing this EP is me coming out and saying, "I have a voice, and the messages of my songs are very important to me because it's my story and it's me expressing myself."
What does it mean to you to be a Filipina American talent right now? I know traditionally there hasn't been a lot of representation, at least in the U.S.
I'm just so proud that I myself can represent the Philippines. And, you know, like, Olivia Rodrigo — I love her.
I'm so happy whenever I hear that someone's Filipino, because I'm like, "Wow, family!" [Laughs.] Because back when I was in the Philippines, living there for 14 years of my life, I didn't really have anybody to look up to in the music side of things — when it comes to things like being a singer and being an artist. There was not a lot of Filipino representation there. Except for Lea Salonga. She sang "Reflection" in the movie Mulan, the very first one. And so she was really the only one that I looked up to.
I know you're invested in uplifting the AAPI community, and you were named to the 2022 Gold House A100 list. Are there any actions that you're taking to support the community? Or is it simply you being yourself and being Filipina that's making a difference?
Yeah, I think just embracing the community — being me, and just doing my best in everything that I do.
Do you have any new goals or anything that you haven't accomplished yet that you're working towards right now?
Performing live. I haven't performed live yet.
Is there a tour in the works, or is it just something that you want to do eventually?
I think we're thinking about doing a tour.
Anything else coming up?
I'm going back to the Philippines soon.
Yeah — it's been 10 years [since I've] seen my country.
Do you have anything fun planned, or are you just gonna go with the flow?
I'm gonna go everywhere!
Photo: Amber Patrick
Relive Machine Gun Kelly's epic homecoming that featured blood, sweat and tears — oh, and a $10 million life insurance policy.
The "Mainstream Sellout" was a hometown sellout on Aug. 13 when Machine Gun Kelly (MGK) performed to more than 41,000 fans at a packed FirstEnergy Stadium in his native Cleveland.
Exactly 15 years after a teenage Colson Baker — now better known as MGK — first dreamed of hip-hop stardom, his unlikely journey from regional up-and-comer to emerging superstar was completed on the final show and first stadium date of his summer touring leg.
Machine Gun Kelly's homecoming was special from start to finish, with the Cleveland mayor officially dubbing Aug. 13 "Machine Gun Kelly Day" and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame opening an MGK exhibit before he took the stage at FirstEnergy Stadium. But as soon as the show began — with openers Trippie Redd, Avril Lavigne, Willow and 44phantom warming up the raucous audience — it was clear MGK's hometown fans were dying to welcome home one of their own.
What transpired was a game-changing two-and-a-half-hour set (built heavily around his latest albums Tickets to My Downfall and Mainstream Sellout) that literally included blood, sweat and tears.
Below, check out seven highlights from MGK's debut as a stadium headliner — and hometown hero.
The theme throughout the night was destroying the evil internet, which was physically represented with a massive inflatable "Stranger Things"-like creature — complete with a computer screen head — that emerged in the back of the stage, declaring, "I am the internet. You are what I say you are."
Often a paparazzi and social media target, MGK made sure to call out his online haters throughout the show. But more importantly, he encouraged his audience to believe in themselves and not to give power to anonymous trolls.
Spoiler alert: By the end of the show, MGK (along with a little pyrotechnical help from a pink helicopter) successfully destroyed the internet, freeing both himself and his fans from the chains of social media hell — at least for the night.
After a brief video montage of a young rapping MGK rising up through different Northeast Ohio venues, the MC appeared at the back of the stadium dressed in a Cleveland Browns jersey with "XX" for numbers.
Remembering his hip-hop roots for fans there at the beginning, MGK delivered a few lines of early tracks "Cleveland," "Alpha Omega" and "Chip Off the Block" — a special trio of songs he hasn't sung at other stops on the tour — before zip-lining the entire distance of the stadium to the stage. He then delivered an adrenaline-fueled performance of his platinum 2015 track "Till I Die."
"I had a dream three days ago," MGK told the audience afterward. "I said, 'Can you bring me into the stadium in a real helicopter?' They said, 'No.' I said, 'Alright, I want to zip-line from the top of the stadium.'
"They said, 'No.' So I called the mayor and said, 'Let's make this happen. I want to give them some Michael Jackson s— and make them remember.'"
After raising enough money to cover a $10 million life insurance policy, MGK received the green light just before the show.
"We made it happen," MGK said. "This is a special night for a kid who used to hand out CDs and now got 50,000 people together."
Confirming his transformation from rapid-fire rapper to pop-punk purveyor, MGK proved his frenetic bona fides by bringing out songwriting partner and producer Travis Barker.
Despite a doctor's orders against performing with a broken thumb, the blink-182 drummer (with wife Kourtney Kardashian in tow) joined MGK for a six-song stretch that featuredTickets To My Downfall tracks "title track," "kiss kiss," "concert for aliens," "all i know" and "bloody valentine" and finished with blink-182's "All the Small Things."
A trip to the B-stage turned into an emotional moment when MGK talked about wishing his deceased father and aunt could have witnessed his triumphant homecoming. "I wish so much my father and my aunt could be here," he told the crowd. "But I've got you all — the only family I have left."
Featuring a string section from Cleveland's Contemporary Youth Orchestra, the singer delivered raw performances of "Glass House" and "lonely."
Draped in blue light, MGK added, "I'm sorry to be emotional" to the crowd with many fans equally teary during the heartfelt moment.
Similar to MGK's late 2021 show at Cleveland's Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse — where he refused to leave the stage, forcing the venue to cut the power — the FirstEnergy Stadium show ran more than 30 minutes longer than posted set times.
Late into the concert, MGK said he was being told in his earpiece that he was getting fined $70,000 every 10 minutes for running late. He then downed a glass of wine.
"You know what I say about that, we aren't stopping this concert yet," MGK said. "I'm rich, b—."
Just like he's done previously on the current tour, MGK smashed the glass on his head, which caused him to bleed WWE-style from his face. "Should we stop the show or spend the $70,000?" he asked, which prompted chants of "MGK."
With blood now clearly dripping down his face, the singer talked about all of the small club Cleveland venues he played. "I always wanted shows to feel intimate," he added. Mission accomplished.
Photo: Amber Patrick
With the aforementioned life insurance policy in mind, a bloodied and unharnessed MGK climbed 30 feet up the stage rigging — young Eddie Vedder style — to finish "my ex's best friend."
He then proceeded to jam his legs into the rig and hang upside down, smiling and singing without missing a beat as tomato-shaped confetti reigned down around the stadium. The surreal moment epitomized the entire evening: a fearless artist truly wanting to give his hometown crowd a show they'll never forget.
Even 30 minutes (and apparently $210,000) overdue, Machine Gun Kelly clearly didn't want to leave the stage. Nearly awkward moments of silence were mixed with sincere ramblings toward the end, as MGK was obviously still processing the enormity of the evening.
He recalled a phone call with fiancée Megan Fox from earlier in the day, when she told him that he doesn't have to prove anything on stage and that the audience is there to see him.
"We did it," MGK said. "We did sell out a stadium in our hometown. I love you all. I'll see you many times in this lifetime, I'm sure."
After performing the set finale, the anthemic "twin flame," MGK fell to his knees and cried with his head held low. As the appropriately titled "9 lives" played over the PA, MGK hugged his band members and looked out to the crowd — taking in the last moments of a dream come true.
Photo: Dane Clark
Noah Reid shares the story behind his one-of-a-kind acoustic guitar, which was made expressly with him in mind.
Musician and actor Noah Reid's favorite instrument is an acoustic guitar that was custom-built by renowned luthier Linda Manzer, who's worked on guitars for the likes of Carlos Santana, Pat Metheny and Paul Simon. But the instrument's pedigree isn't the biggest thing that makes it special — it's also an important part of Reid's family history.
In this episode of It Goes to 11, Reid shares the deeply personal story behind his guitar, which was a wedding gift from his parents. Every detail behind the instrument was crafted with him in mind, beginning with the fact that it was made in 1987 — the year he was born.
"It's personalized on the headstock with a drawing by my dad," Reid explains, adding that Manzer also worked on the instrument with him and his playing style in mind. "She included a letter that said, 'I've heard you play in person, and I've tuned this, and the action is such that I think it will suit your playing style."
Reid's parents gave him the guitar as a gift the night before his wedding ceremony in 2020, along with a detailed case for the instrument. Having it before the wedding itself allowed the musician to make a special memory with his new guitar right away: performing for his new wife in front of their loved ones.
"Playing this guitar on my wedding day was just a crazy confluence of music and emotion and belonging and family," the singer — who Schitt's Creek fans may remember from his heart-melting performances as Patrick — says. "It was really everything. There's a sense of belonging with this instrument that feels unique and special. It's not just for an everyday occasion."
Press play on the video above to get to know Reid's special acoustic guitar for yourself, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of It Goes to 11.