What is causing the current vinyl shortage?

Vinyl records have, in recent years, become very difficult to obtain. Supply shortages, roaring retail costs and long waits are impacting the music industry more than ever. Even though new record processing plants have opened, and existing plants have ramped up their capacity, the demand is currently outpacing supply. Vinyl pressing orders usually have a lead time of up to 12 months, and the retail cost of storage space is also on the rise, which is contributing to the issue.

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What’s Causing the Long Wait Times for Vinyl Records?

Online streaming, for a very long time, has been the way to go. New songs can be released instantly, and artists can easily track their listening stats online. Digitisation has made it easier to release remixes and different variants of songs too, as there’s less pressure to have a physical release. 

The online gaming sector has followed a similar path over the years. At one point, you could only play roulette in a casino, but now you can find lightning roulette casino game variants that can be loaded instantly, from anywhere. The accessibility of the online world has changed the entertainment sector as a whole and for the better. Even though artists would normally prioritize their release across three different formats, including digital formats, CD and vinyl, records always seemed to be less popular and only suited to serious collectors and fans. Now however it’s making a comeback, and plants just aren’t ready for it. 

Vinyl production demands are placing a huge strain on smaller and more independent labels, as they often end up getting lower priority. Labels are being urged to build vinyl pressing plants of their own because now, the capacity of domestic vinyl pressing plants can’t keep pace with current demand. Artists are also being faced with a decision, do they hold back the release of digital and CD versions until the vinyl is ready, or do they release and hope that the demand is still there months later?

The Apollo Masters Fire of 2020

Even though it was a number of years ago, the Apollo Masters fire of 2020 has had an impact on vinyl production. This is the only vinyl plant in the US to manufacture lacquer discs. This is a key step when it comes to the manufacturing process of vinyl. The facility was completely destroyed, and as they rebuilt, a lot of pressing plants were forced to shift to MDC, a manufacturer in Japan. This obviously led to delays, which stunted the production of vinyl and it’s had a knock-on effect over the years. The simple solution here would be to, of course, step up production. That’s happening too, and over the next 18 months, we should start to see an improvement. Until then, it’s smaller indie labels that are going to miss out, as major producers of pressed vinyls are now quoting around two years from the time of order, to delivery. Artists often plan the release of their album a year or so in advance, so major changes might have to be made to facilitate the current disruption.