A recent fire at a Southern California manufacturing plant could have devastating effects on the vinyl record industry worldwide.
The blaze engulfed the Apollo Masters manufacturing and storage facility on Thursday in Banning, Calif. While no employees were injured, the fire destroyed the business, which supplied the lacquer discs used in making master discs for vinyl record production.
“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,” Third Man Records co-founder Ben Blackwell told Pitchfork. “From my understanding, this fire will present a problem for the vinyl industry worldwide.”
Apollo Masters thanked customers for their support as they recover from the “devastating fire” that caused “catastrophic damage,” in a message posted to their website. “We are uncertain of our future at this point and are evaluating options as we try to work through this difficult time.”
Cal Fire Capt. Fernando Herrera told the Desert Sun that “there were multiple reports of explosions when the fire started.” The cause of the blaze has yet to be determined.
“With Apollo gone, the supply and turnaround time of vinyl production and mastering will be greatly affected,” David Read, a vinyl coordinator for the Toronto-based company Duplication, told Smack Media. “If you can’t cut a master record into lacquer, it will affect the turnaround time for new records. It’s a big process with a lot of machinery separate from the vinyl pressing.”
Read went on to note that those within the industry have been working together to manage the ripple effect of the fire: “Everybody’s talking to each other and competitors are talking to each other. It’s in everybody’s best interest to get lacquer masters back up and running whether it be Apollo or someone else.”
The vinyl-record industry has been experiencing a boom in recent years, even as music consumption gravitates heavily towards digital streaming platforms. Record sales have increased every year since 2009, with vinyl surpassing CD sales in 2019.
Though the destruction of Apollo Masters is a staggering blow to the industry, Read believes manufacturers will be able to recover. “Vinyl will be back,” he said. “You can mark my words on that.”