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Is Adele Really to Blame for Global Delays in Vinyl Manufacturing?

Singer Adele uses her purse to hide from the TV camera while she sings along to her song being played to the audience while attending a game between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers on October 19, 2021.

Photo by Allen J. Schaben for Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

Vinyl enthusiasts and independent labels are charging Adele with causing worldwide delays at record-pressing plants.

If you’re a collector who’s been waiting months on end for a record you purchased to arrive, rest assured you’re not alone. And while a new report has vinyl enthusiasts and indie labels pointing fingers at Sony and Adele for clogging the arteries of an already backed-up vinyl manufacturing industry, the British pop star may be too convenient a villain for this particular blockage.

According to a story from Variety, Sony shot the moon by ordering a staggering 500,000 copies of the singer’s incoming album, 30, hoping to set new records for vinyl sales upon release. 30 years ago, when vinyl production and demand rivaled modern figures, an order of that scale wouldn’t have required multiple record-pressing plants to clear space by pushing other orders aside. But we no longer live in a world where getting an album pressed to wax is as simple as finding a factory and putting in a call. While there are still dozens of record-pressing plants in operation in the US alone, a fire at the Apollo/Transco factory early last year wiped out one of only two lacquer master factories on the planet supplying the raw materials to those facilities. So when a handful of pop’s highest-selling acts (read: Adele, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and Elton John,) all decide to press up their new albums in a single year,  other artists with less (or no,) label muscle were always going to feel it. Pile all of that onto the broader COVID-related delays in the global supply chain and you’re looking at a record market with far fewer new titles from independent musicians, months-long waits for processing, and potentially, a much more expensive product until the backlog finally clears up.

It’s not all bad news, though. The big takeaway here is vinyl demand is still surging and showing no signs of letting up, which has nothing to do with Sony trying to sell half a million copies of the new Adele album. The infrastructure for meeting that demand just needs to hurry and catch the hell up.

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