After the big fire that disrupted vinyl production, what’s next?

The fallout continues from the massive fire at Apollo Masters, one of just two factories in the known universe that manufacturers lacquer master discs, an essential part of the vinyl manufacturing process. (Get caught up here.)

MDC, the only other such factory, was supplying 20% of the world’s supply and was already under severe stress. They will not be able to pick up the slack. Could the few Direct Metal Master plants help out? Maybe, but there aren’t any factories using that tech anywhere in North America.

What’s to be done to avert this vinyl catastrophe?

The Vinyl Alliance represents a number of industry groups. They issued this statement about next steps.

“The news of the fire at lacquer manufacturer Apollo Masters in California shocked the record industry and raised the question about the future of vinyl. Faced with a serious challenge, the Vinyl Alliance, a newly formed group of industry players, remains optimistic. ‘There are already alternatives available“, says the groups president Günter Loibl, ‘which will help bridge the shortage of lacquer discs. This can also be an opportunity to embrace new technologies and to strengthen collaboration within the industry.’

“Within hours after the fire, Vinyl Alliance members got into contact with each other to discuss possible repercussions. Simultaneously, start-ups and individuals reached out to share their ideas. Soon it became clear that the impact on the industry will be limited in the long run as there are alternatives and options available to deal with the temporary shortage of lacquer discs:

  • MDC, the remaining manufacturer of lacquers is rationing supply in order to satisfy demand of as many customers as possible
  • Direct-to-Metal-Mastering (DMM) is a working alternative, which does not require a lacquer and is available worldwide
  • There are several start-ups planning to manufacture lacquers and they are expected to enter the market in the coming months
  • New technologies such as HD Vinyl – a modern way to produce stampers without lacquers – are in development.”

(Read the rest of the statement here.)

Okay, that’s optimistic. Let’s hope they’re right.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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