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8 min 2 sec

High School Teacher Spins His Way to Profits

After he learns about a little-known manufacturing technique, the world of vinyl records becomes a full-time occupation for this high school teacher.
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What It's About

In-person record cutting spins sweet sounding profits!

Business Model
Product
Skills Required
Record Making & Making Connections
Complexity
Medium
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

Michael recommends finding something that you are passionate about that nobody else does. If you see something coming that is interesting to you and has a steep barrier to entry that you are willing to overcome, then you could be on the right path. If it's easy and popular already, you've probably missed out.

Fun Fact

Record sales nearly died in the 2000s, but last year, vinyl record sales grew by 12% to 9.7 million sold. One company in the UK even offers the option to have your ashes or those of a loved one pressed into a working album!

Notes from Chris

Episode 882
Michael Dixon has more of a side hustle theme than one specific service or product. He runs several projects, all based—in one way or another—around vinyl records. Why records? Well, Mike became obsessed with his parents’ old vinyl records as a kid. He believes there’s value in a tangible product that is not mass produced, unlike streaming digital audio files.

Since he was 15, Mike has been in the music industry, playing in bands, promoting festivals, running record labels… and the list goes on. About a decade ago, he was working a full-time job as a high school teacher when he began his first vinyl related business. He would order small batches of records from New Zealand, from one of the only lathe cut record makers in the world at that time.

Cutting a record using a lathe means that sound waves are focused into a needle tip. As the needle vibrates, it etches grooves into the record disc. The grooves are the physical equivalent to the sound waves. And voila! You have yourself a record.

Lathe cut records are made one at a time, so small orders can be easily handled. Vinyl records made at a pressing plant are mass produced and require large minimum orders.

But when Mike’s orders from New Zealand started taking too long to fill, he wondered if he could learn to cut the records himself. He began buying old, broken lathe machines that were built in the 1940s and 50s. It took him a year, but he figured out the process. This led to Mike’s second business: vintage record lathe repair, restoration, and parts sales. He runs this business with the help of a business partner named Kris.

Mike got started with his live record cutting booths at museums and small festivals, doing the work just for fun. One day, the Converse Shoe Company took notice. They contacted him about cutting records for Coachella, where the majority of their party guests were in the marketing and entertainment industry. Captivated with the process, people started hiring Mike and Kris for corporate parties, festivals, and other events. It hasn’t slowed down since. Just being at the events is their best form of advertising.

Mike’s average monthly profits are approximately $3,500. He admits there are feast and famine periods. Being employed in a super-niche business is often a struggle—paychecks are unsteady and work comes and goes. More important to him than the monetary profit is what he calls “Standard of Living Profitability,” which he has in spades. He gets to go on company-sponsored work trips all over the world and spends his time hustling music, art, and vinyl—which he loves. He also gets to meet and work with artists he’s admired for years.

He doesn’t know anyone who has half as much fun doing their job as he does. Turning Mobile Vinyl Recorders into his full-time job has dramatically improved Mike’s quality of life.

Next on the turnstile for Mike is more of the same. He has some events in the US and Europe this summer and a Southwest tour for his science of sound presentation. He’s also developing new equipment for record cutting and working with some of his favorite artists who are recording with his record label.

 
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Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"I make some decisions with the bottom line in mind, but I've also realized that the BEST decisions I ever made, are the ones that put me where I am today. The ones that I would have NEVER made with a profit motive in mind.​​"
—Michael Dixon #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau