Vinyl Record Industry Fears 'Vinylgeddon' After Fire Burns Down Apollo Masters Plant

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The California plant is one of only two in the world that manufactures lacquers, vital to the production of vinyl records.

The manufacturing and storage facility for Apollo Masters Corp. -- a Banning, Calif.-based manufacturing plant that supplies the lacquer used for making master discs, which are then used to create vinyl records -- has burned down in a massive fire, the company confirmed in a statement posted to its official website.

“To all of [our] wonderful customers. It is with great sadness we report the Apollo Masters manufacturing and storage facility had a devastating fire and suffered catastrophic damage,” the statement reads. “The best news is all of our employees are safe. We are uncertain of our future at this point and are evaluating options as we try to work through this difficult time. Thank you for all of the support over the years and the notes of encouragement and support we have received from you all.”

The fire, which was first reported around 8 a.m. PT Friday morning (Feb. 7), broke out while employees were inside the building, though all escaped safely, according to The Desert Sun, which first reported the blaze. But the loss of the plant -- which, along with MDC in Japan, is one of only two worldwide that produces the lacquers needed to create vinyl records -- comes as a difficult blow to the booming vinyl record industry. Billboard reported just last month that 26% of all physical albums sold in the U.S. in 2019 were vinyl.

In an email to Billboard, Gil Tamazyan -- founder and president of the California-based vinyl pressing plant Capsule Labs -- noted that while it is "too soon to know" how badly the plant's destruction will affect vinyl supply, he predicts the incident "will cause a hindrance in some major way" before a solution can be found. "Unless something happens really quickly, there will soon be Vinylgeddon," said Tamazyan, who estimates that Apollo supplies 80% of blank lacquer master discs globally.

As to how the sudden shortage might be remedied going forward, Tamazyan says that short of Apollo rebounding, it will take either a new company acquiring Apollo's intellectual property and creating a new plant or MDC expanding its operations -- though he notes that even prior to the Apollo fire, MDC was falling behind. "They were already having a hard time keeping up with the demand," wrote Tamazyan, who says that as an existing MDC customer, Capsule Labs is at least temporarily in the clear. Still, he continued, "a U.S.-based supplier is imperative."

Also weighing in on the fire via social media was Duplication, a Canadian company that offers vinyl pressing, among other services. In a tweet, the company wrote that the Apollo plant’s destruction is a “disaster” for the vinyl pressing industry, noting the lacquer shortage resulting from the fire could possibly result in “plants having to close or scale back operations.”

Billboard has reached out to Apollo Masters for further comment and information on the blaze.