The fallout continues to spread from the massive fire at Apollo Masters, one of only two factories in the world that supplied vinyl pressing plants with something called lacquer masters, an essential part of the vinyl manufacturing process. (For a backgrounder, go here and here.)
Will this mean an end to vinyl’s 14-year comeback streak? From the LA Times:
“Cash Carter, chief operating officer at Kindercore Vinyl Pressing in Athens, Georgia [says] ‘We’ve all been worried about this, we’ve had meetings about it within the industry. We’ve gotten together with all the other pressing plants, lacquer cutters, everybody, and been like, “What happens if MDC or Apollo goes away? We’re all f—ed.” Now, is the sky falling? No. But this is disastrous. I think there are going to be pressing plants that close because of this.’
“How did one company end up monopolising the global market for blank lacquer discs? What happens now that it’s out of commission? From an environmental perspective, can such a facility even exist in California anymore?
“The whole thing is best understood via a mess of metaphors. In film-making terms, a blank lacquer is the original negative. It’s the fresh cement into which you carve your initials. Made with …’the purest of absolutely flat aluminum, ultrasonically cleaned and prepared,’ the disc is then coated, like icing onto a doughnut, with a micro-thin layer of lacquer made with Apollo’s secret formula. After undergoing a six-week drying and curing process, followed by another six weeks repeating the steps for side B, each blank disc comes out as smooth as a mirror. A box of 25 costs about $900.
“The concern is that a shortage will threaten new releases and boutique reissues in 2021 and beyond, after the stock has been depleted…Hardest hit will be independent labels that issue new releases and earn more from vinyl sales than they do from streaming services. Hashimoto says a shortage of lacquers will drive up prices, which will no doubt be passed on to buyers.”