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Why a California factory fire could spark ‘Vinylgeddon’ album stall

A “catastrophic” fire Feb. 6 that devastated a Banning manufacturing plant could have a chilling effect on vinyl album production.

Apollo Masters makes lacquer that smooths master discs, the templates used to press vinyl copies. With its factory and warehouse on Lincoln Street virtually destroyed, some industry insiders fear a lacquer shortage will disrupt the supply chain.

In a statement on Apollo Masters’ website, the fire was described as having caused “catastrophic damage.”

“We are uncertain of our future at this point and are evaluating options as we try to work through this difficult time,” the statement read. No one was injured in the blaze.

Dennis Callaci, general manager of Claremont retailer Rhino Records and Riverside’s Mad Platter, said the vinyl records’ supply chain had already been slowed by another problem in the last year. Orders that used to take a week for delivery now can take a month or longer, he said, due to a shift in facilities.

“This will indeed have an effect on us. It’s a huge concern,” Callaci said. “I’m glad everyone at the fire is OK, but it was just another kick in the gut, another bad hand of cards we’ve been dealt.”

Executives in the recording industry say there are just two companies that make the lacquer used for master discs. The second is MDC, a Japanese company.

“Unless something happens really quickly, there will soon be Vinylgeddon,” Gil Tamazyan — founder and president of the Los Angeles-based pressing plant Capsule Labs, told Billboard. He estimates Apollo supplies 80% of blank lacquer master discs globally.

Apollo Masters could not be reached for comment.

The vinyl format has seen exponential growth in recent years as music fans opt for more authentic sound and collectible albums with bold artwork. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, 16.7 million records were sold in 2018, with a retail value estimated at $420 million. Billboard reported in January that 26% of all physical albums sold in the U.S. in 2019 were vinyl.

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