“Devastating” Manufacturing Plant Fire Threatens Worldwide Vinyl Record Supply

Music, News

Apollo Masters—a manufacturing plant that supplies the lacquer used for making master discs, which are used to make vinyl records—suffered a fire on Thursday, February 6, at its manufacturing and storage facility in Banning, California, The Desert Sun reports. No employees were injured in the “devastating” blaze, which completely destroyed the facility. A note on Apollo Masters’ website reads, “We are uncertain of our future at this point and are evaluating options as we try to work through this difficult time.” Figures in the vinyl record production industry have expressed similar concern.

“From my understanding, this fire will present a problem for the vinyl industry worldwide,” Ben Blackwell, co-founder of Third Man Records told Pitchfork in an email. “There are only TWO companies that make lacquers in the world, and the other, MDC in Japan, already had trouble keeping up with demand BEFORE this development.” (The emphasis is Blackwell’s.)

Blackwell also wrote that there have been “whispers” of another company “entertaining the idea” of entering the lacquer marketplace, but that Apollo was also the “primary or possibly only supplier of the styli” that are used in the vinyl pressing process. “I imagine this will affect EVERYONE, not just Third Man Pressing and Third Man Mastering, but to what extent remains to be seen.”

In addition, Blackwell clarified, “I don’t want to be an alarmist. But I’m attempting to be realistic as opposed to Pollyannish.”

The Twitter account for Duplication, a Toronto-based vinyl/CD/DVD duplication, pressing, and printing company wrote, “Disaster for the vinyl pressing industry,” and “There will be a lacquer shortage and possibly plants having to close or scale back operations for a while.”

When reached by Pitchfork, David Read, a vinyl production and sales coordinator at Duplication, added that the fire “will directly affect all vinyl plants, bands/labels, mastering engineers, plating facilities etc., anyone who used lacquers as part of their vinyl production.” Read added optimistically, “In my almost 40 years experience the vinyl industry as a whole is incredibly resilient, and filled with talented professionals who will, and already are, teaming together to find a way out of this current problem.”

Pitchfork has reached out to representatives for Apollo Masters for further comment and more information.

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