Jenn D'Eugenio's parents listened to records; and, as a kid, she thought album art was pretty cool. But, back in the day, Jenn viewed these vinyl discs as nothing more than interesting artifacts of a bygone era. Which is understandable, given that she came of age at a time when most young people experienced music through mixtapes and CDs.
Her love of vinyl would bloom in high school when D'Eugenio wandered into Dragon Song, a record store in Manassas, Va. "There was this huge wall of moldy oldies, and the guy behind the counter wanted to talk about all of his time on the road with this [music] person or that person," she recalls. “That experience ignited something in me. That's where I bought my first record. And ever since, I've had the vinyl bug."
In addition to amassing a huge collection over the last 20 years, D'Eugenio has made a career in the record pressing industry. She is currently the sales and customer service director at Austin's Gold Rush Vinyl. One of only a few women-owned pressing plants in the U.S., the company makes records for artists big and small, plus limited-edition gold-plated and platinum-style LPs for legends like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and U2.
D'Eugenio is also the CEO, president and founder of Women in Vinyl, a non-profit that's all about educating women, female-identifying, non-binary, LGBTQ+, BIPOC and otherwise marginalized people about career opportunities in the industry and supporting their ambitions.
Here, D'Eugenio, who co-hosts the Women in Vinyl podcast, reveals how many records she owns and talks about why it is important to diversity the business.
MUSE: What was the very first record you bought during that life-changing visit to Dragon Song?
Jenn D'Eugenio: I bought Led Zeppelin's House of the Holy.
I love how the experience of going into that record store and talking to that sales clerk changed your life in such a big way.
Yeah. The people behind the counter at record stores are sort of our musical sages. They're the people that help us uncover and find new things that we may not know we need.
Some collectors limit themselves to a genre or two just to keep their collections from taking over their homes. What's your strategy?
Oh, man, I don't limit myself to a genre because I like too much music. If there's a song, even if it's just one song, and it hits me in a way that I really love, I want the record. Then there are certain artists where it doesn't even matter, I'll just buy the record.
How many records do you have?
As far as controlling the collection, that is not something that my husband and I have done. We met at a record store—he was managing the store. Between the two of us, we have over 5,000 records.
What kind of music do you like?
My musical preference would probably fall into stoner rock. But there is also this down-tempo electronic stuff I like. I have a really large Black Sabbath collection. I have over 50 variants of Master of Reality. I run an Instagram account, which I haven't had time to update, but it's called Mistress of Reality, and I look into how these records were made because, working in a record pressing plant, it's crazy to see all of these variants. For example, in Brazil, it was less marketable for that record to be the colors that it was everywhere else—with the purple and black—because those seemed drab. So, the Brazilian release is a rainbow that says Black Sabbath on the front.
How has record pressing evolved over the decades?
Some technologies have enabled systems where we have touch screens and things like that, but the general process of steam and pressure is pretty much the way that it's always been.
The tech companies have tried to sell us on this idea that digital is better for everything—movies, TV shows, books, music. But a lot of us like to own tactile objects like records that we can keep.
Yeah, I think a lot of us want that tactile thing. For me, I'm not going to buy a movie on Amazon. Where does it go? I want to own a piece of the thing that I love. Holding something and appreciating the artwork or [printed] lyrics is a special experience that makes it more important to you. And I think that with everything going so far the other way, everybody was wanting and needing that tactile thing. And when the pandemic happened, even more so. It was like, "We want to have a thing and feel some connection to something."
There really is no connection when you buy digital music. I don't go running into the living room after I download a song from Apple Music to tell my wife about it because I have nothing to show for it. But if I buy a David Bowie album on vinyl, we are going to sit down together and look at the album cover and read the liner notes. I assume liner notes and album covers are meaningful to you, too.
Yeah, I've always been an artist. I think it's a way to appreciate people's art—the music that they've created, and how they choose to represent it. And the people behind those album covers don't always necessarily get the credit they deserve for the photo or the painting or whatever it is. So, yeah, I feel like that whole experience is important to how you're consuming the music. And sometimes you'll just see an album and not know what it is and be like, "I want to check this out because the art's so interesting."
How about sound quality? Do you prefer how records sound, compared to digital downloads?
I'm definitely not an audiophile. But I do prefer the way music sounds on vinyl. The fact that you're not compressing it means it has more room to breathe. The process of manufacturing a record creates a warmer sound and feel.
Can you talk about why you founded Women in Vinyl?
Unless we start diversifying the industry, we're never going to innovate, because if everybody's just doing stuff the same way with the same thought process, it's not going to change. If we get more women, more minority groups, more people in here with different viewpoints, it's going to help bring the industry forward and make it competitive with all of those digital things that people are trying to implement.
Music has been such an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. But I didn’t know that I had a place in this industry. For me, I was like, "Well, I'm not in a band, I don't play an instrument—I guess I'm just going to go to art school." So, I went to college for art and design and had a career in that. Then I got my first job in the industry at Furnace [Record Pressing in Alexandria], and I noticed that, behind-the-scenes, all of these women were doing these jobs—they were cutting people's records, they were managing and opening pressing plants. And I was like, "If I had known that, maybe I would have done this sooner!"
[Check out Muse's "Art of the Album" feature for a peek at classic record covers, updated weekly.]