Towards a vinyl shortage? Factory fire fears music lovers the worst

Music lovers hold their breath. After the fire of a Californian factory, an essential link in the vinyl manufacturing chain, the record industry fears a shortage and an increase in the price of this increasingly popular format, after a long period of disaffection in favor from the CD.

Last weekend, Apollo Masters, in the Los Angeles area, was hit by a devastating fire. This factory is one of the two world producers of the lacquer used to make "masters", that is to say the matrix discs from which are pressed the commercially available vinyls. A possible lacquer shortage could lead to delays in production and higher prices for records.

"It's still too early to talk about a disaster, but in the (record) industry, we all think it's a very worrying moment," said Gil Tamazyan, CEO of Capsule Labs, which specializes in the pressing of vinyl records in Los Angeles. "We are all concerned with the time it might take before we find a lasting solution," he added.

Vinyl sales explode

After the Apollo factory fire, the only lacquer supplier in the world remains the Japanese company MDC, which until now only produced around 20% of the stock, according to Gil Tamazyan.

Another technique exists for making dies. It consists in engraving the microgroove directly in a virgin copper disc, rather than in lacquer. If there are eight sites in Europe capable of using this technique called DMM (for "direct metal mastering"), there is none in North America, says David Read, responsible for vinyl records for the specialized firm Canadian Duplication.

In 2018, vinyl record sales reached their highest level since 1988, at $ 419 million (+ 8% in one year), according to figures from the American record industry.