Fire at Banning Supplier Could Be Biggest Threat to Vinyl Record Sales Since the Rise of CDs

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One morning last week just after 8 a.m., as Sarabjeet Ubbu was starting the day behind the counter of his 7 Star Food Store in Banning, Calif., he noticed black smoke billowing from the roof of the building across the street.

The unassuming beige facility houses Apollo Masters. Owners of a manufacturing plant and a closely held formula for making and mounting a specific mix of lacquer onto aluminum discs, the company supplies a reported 75% of the world’s blank lacquers, the shiny circular plates essential for the production of vinyl records.

The vinyl sector is a small but vital part of the music industry. Though it was impossible to know from where Ubbu stood, the smoke pouring from the windowless plant signaled a kind of doomsday scenario. The business of selling vinyl albums, in the midst of an unexpected 14-year surge in sales, could have been facing its biggest existential threat since the rise of the compact disc.

Ubbu stepped outside to call 911, but a police car had already arrived. So he started recording video on his phone. Eventually he retreated into his car on the far side of his property.

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