by Daniel O’Neill ’21 A&E Staff
On Thursday, February 6, one of the two lacquer vinyl manufacturing plants in the world, Apollo Masters, was destroyed by a catastrophic fire. The plant is located in Banning, CA and acted as a storage facility for the products. While there were no employees injured or killed in the fire, the damage done to the vinyl industry may be irreparable.
The Apollo Masters’ website has a note on the front page explaining their current position after the disaster. The note 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.”
This is indeed a difficult time for the vinyl industry, as Apollo Masters was the leading producer of lacquer vinyl discs in the world. According to the Los Angeles Times, the only other mass producer of this vinyl product is MDC, located in Japan. The trouble is that MDC is operating at full capacity, and the vinyl community may have trouble recovering.
Apollo Masters became the leading producer of lacquer vinyl discs by perfecting the production process over the years. The company did well when it was owned by Capitol Records in the 1960s and 1970s and managed to survive the rise of CDs and streaming services in the past decades. The company, along with the entire vinyl community, has been extremely resilient in the complicated and ever-changing music industry. The fire, however, has the potential to bring this section of the industry to a standstill.
According to Pitchfork, Ben Blackwell of Third Man Records said, “From my understanding, this fire will present a problem for the vinyl industry worldwide… I imagine this will affect everyone, not just Third Man Pressing and Third Man Mastering, but to what extent remains to be seen.” There are those who believe that the destruction can be partially fixed through GoFundMe, as the community is tight knit and passionate. Apollo held the majority of the industry, however, so a comeback and rebuild from the vinyl producer seems more unlikely as time passes.
The likelihood of Apollo Masters returning has diminished even further with news of the need for hazardous waste removal and inspection from Fernando Herrera, the Riverside County Fire Department public information officer. The strict environmental regulations of the state of California puts the company’s rebuilding hopes in jeopardy.
Apollo had such a strong position in the vinyl industry that this tragedy directly disrupts the global supply chain for vinyl. For streaming services, it is easy to upload music files to share with the public. With vinyl, however, there are many techniques and strict steps that must be taken to produce the record itself. Those who produce in the industry are craftsmen who are professionally trained. Every product must be absolutely perfect; there is little room if any for mistakes in the production process.
Many of the workers in the manufacturing plant in Banning were laid off. Their high skill levels and distinct knowledge of production processes are what the industry needs for Apollo Masters to return.