Tragedy strikes Apollo Masters, the vinyl industry left in peril

Reported by Dave McNair

Bannon, Ca (PTA) — On February 7th, 2020 a fire ravaged the entire manufacturing complex of Apollo Masters. Fortunately, no one was injured in the fire. However, this tragic fire has put an end to the sole-supplier of cutting styli and — by some estimates (80% or more) — all worldwide sales for master lacquers used in vinyl production. These lacquers are used by vinyl cutting lathe operators to produce ‘parts’ used in the vinyl record manufacturing process.

Apollo Masters was started in 1986 having acquired the rights and lacquer disc machinery from Capitol Records disk manufacturing division. In late 2007, Apollo Masters acquired the assets of long time competitor Transco and continued to manufacture lacquers under the Apollo/Transco name.

This consolidation made sense during the nadir of vinyl record demand, but in 2020 with the vinyl resurgence still on the upswing, the sudden disappearance of Apollo as the only major player sent an immediate shock-wave through the tight-knit network of cutting engineers worldwide.

This leaves only the small Japan based company of MDC (no website available) as the sole supplier of master-quality-nitrocellulose-discs (lacquers). Historically, MDC’s small artisan-style output — while quality-oriented — has only ever produced enough product to service a boutique subset of demand.

We can only hope in the short term, MDC is able to increase output (and/or) in the future another party (or Apollo) can somehow resurrect a larger US-based operation.