The news of the fire at lacquer manufacturer Apollo Masters in California shocked the record industry and raised the question about the future of vinyl. Faced with a serious challenge, the Vinyl Alliance, a newly formed group of industry players, remains optimistic.
“There are already alternatives available," says the group's president Günter Loibl, “which will help bridge the shortage of lacquer discs. This can also be an opportunity to embrace new technologies and to strengthen collaboration within the industry.”
Existing alternatives and new technologies
Within hours after the fire, Vinyl Alliance members got into contact with each other to discuss possible repercussions. Simultaneously, start-ups and individuals reached out to share their ideas. Soon it became clear that the impact on the industry will be limited in the long run as there are alternatives and options available to deal with the temporary shortage of lacquer discs:
- MDC, the remaining manufacturer of lacquers is rationing supply in order to satisfy the demand of as many customers as possible
- Direct-to-Metal-Mastering (DMM) is a working alternative, which does not require a lacquer and is available worldwide
- There are several start-ups planning to manufacture lacquers and they are expected to enter the market in the coming months
- New technologies such as HD Vinyl – a modern way to produce stampers without lacquers – are in development
Scott Hull, a mastering engineer in New York remains calm: “For the time being we have to be more careful with how we use lacquers, but I doubt that the consumer will feel the shortage before our industry will come up with a solution."
Heinz Lichtenegger, CEO from Pro-Ject believes in the future of vinyl: "Perhaps we can find a silver lining in this tragedy. Vinyl is an amazingly durable medium for music that has stood the test of time. We have seen cassettes, 8-Tracks, micro-cassette, reel to reel, Mini-Disc, LaserDisc, CED discs, etc. come and go, but the vinyl LP is more cherished than ever. It is a format important to the industry, to the artists and to millions of fans!“
The main concern at this moment belongs to the employees of Apollo Masters. “They are the ones directly affected by this tragedy," says Zack Tipton, CEO of Vinylize. “Our thoughts go out to them and their families."