The music industry is closely watching for any potential impact from a blaze at a US vinyl facility.
While there were reports that the fire at Apollo Masters in California could result in a slump in global vinyl production, execs in the sector have since reassured labels and retailers about supplies.
Proper Music MD Drew Hill said that pressing plants in Europe he had spoken to were now taking stock of the situation.
“There’s going to be an impact on the vinyl industry in general,” he said. “The question of how big that impact is – we’ll have to wait and see. It’s going to be more of a problem in the US than in Europe.”
After a blip earlier in the year, vinyl unit sales ended up increasing by 4.1% year-on-year in 2019, according to the BPI.
Apollo Masters was one of the main producers of lacquer discs, which are used in the process of cutting a vinyl record. However, it has since emerged that much of the vinyl business in the UK and Europe relies on Japanese supplier MDC.
Barry Grint, founder of Academy Mastering, acknowledged the short-term difficulty in the US but said that the UK situation is “stable”.
“The current position is that MDC will continue to supply their clients with the same volume of blank lacquers as they have historically used on average,” he told Music Week. “They are not going to take on new clients, nor increase their prices.”
There are technological alternatives to using lacquers at pressing plants. But questions remain about the global market being disrupted as US vinyl producers seek a new supply of their lacquer discs.
Anything that disrupts the supply chain is another kick in the teeth that the physical market just doesn’t need
The Apollo blaze happened just months ahead of Record Store Day in April, though many releases have long lead times.
“Concern hasn’t reached us yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there with the labels,” said Banquet co-owner Jon Tolley.
“Anything that disrupts the supply chain is another kick in the teeth that the physical market just doesn’t need,” said Hill. “I’ve long held the belief that supply is going to be the thing that’s a challenge for the physical market rather than demand.”
In the US, the RIAA reported an increase of 19% in vinyl sales revenue last year. Around 18m vinyl records were sold, more than a quarter of the total for albums.
The newly formed Vinyl Record Manufacturers Association Of North America trade association has said that independent craftspeople are available to step in and supply the manpower and technology needed to produce high-quality vinyl.
“We’re doing this for the consumers, because we care about the quality of the product and the experience they have,” said Alex Cushing, president of association member Hand Drawn Records/Hand Drawn Pressing in Dallas.