Apollo Masters is only one of two lacquer manufacturers on the planet. The other one is MDC in Japan.
Hence, this very limited number of suppliers was a long time fear of the vinyl community. It gave many vinyl specialists huge anxiety. What is more, there was a lot worry about what would happen if one supplier would go down.
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 fucked.’*source, Cash Carter
Well, the unthinkable just happened. An enormous fire broke out at Apollo Masters on the 6th of February. By all means, the warehouse is a complete ruin.
What exactly is a ‘lacquer’ produced at Apollo Masters?
A lacquer is incremental in the production of vinyl records. In fact, it’s an aluminium plate which is carrying a chemical solution.
This allows the producer to cut grooves into the lacquer, resulting in the master. Then, the master plate works to make the stampers.
That lets the producer multiply the final vinyl records. What is more, the process of creating lacquers takes huge undertakings.
You need the chemicals as well as the machinery. Organising this is no easy task.
The system of producing vinyl is like the 60s. That means a lot of the technical tools needed for vinyl production are very old and not readily available. One needs a lot of knowledge, too.
What are the implications for vinyl records and the community after Apollo Masters fire?
Unless something happens really quickly, there will soon be Vinylgeddon*source: Gil Tamazyan, president of Capsule Labs (pressing plant)
The problems occurring form this disaster are multi-level. For one thing, vinyl production, in general, is in jeopardy.
With only MDC in Japan being left, there will be a massive shortage in lacquer supply for some time to come.
In addition, the companies mostly relying on vinyl records sales are independent pressing plants. Without lacquers, they won’t be able to take on customers.
Likewise, small indie record labels. Some run their business heavily on the release of vinyl records.
Furthermore, the sheer time it will take for someone to come up with an alternative solution to Apollo Masters.
No one knows right now if they will build up their manufacturing facilities again. Also, in case they will shut down, will they share their recipe for the chemicals and the production?
There are so many questions unanswered right now, that it is very hard to make a stable forecast.
The vinyl community is a tight-knit group of specialists
One reason to have hope though is the vinyl community in itself. As a matter of fact, they are all incredibly skilful specialists.
The vinyl resurgence is due not least because of the determination of its personnel. Maybe one good thing will come out of this.
Music fans will learn once and for all that there are still people behind the production of music. Uniquely, it is a craft to produce vinyl records.
Let’s just hope that vinyl records will weather this storm like all the others before.