The Day The Music Burned

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by vinyl master » 19 Jun 2019 04:00

philbrown wrote:
19 Jun 2019 02:49
For those wondering if I would chime in on this I will but I've got a lot to say and I want to get it right so soon.
Phil Brown
Oh, I know YOU have some thoughts on this, Phil, being a mastering engineer...Plenty of thoughts, probably, and very unique ones, too, since you were "behind the boards" and I can't wait to hear them!! =D>

I did have a few questions, though, Phil...Did you ever hear of anything similar happening to other masters like this in your time as an engineer? Also, how do you know that the records you personally mastered are safe and where/how are they stored, if you know? Lastly, if something ever did happen to those masters in a similar fashion like this fire, how would you handle it knowing those are like your "babies" that you helped bring to life with your own inimitable production techniques and/or are there back-up copies of all or any of the tapes, to your knowledge?

Also, wouldn't it be preferable to store these masters in a climate-controlled underground-type situation or in a fireproof room, or are there other factors (economy-wise, construction-wise or otherwise) that would make this either not viable, doable or feasible? Am I missing something or are the record companies really this callous and foolish about their history and/or historical artifacts? :-k

On top of that, when you think about all the UNRELEASED material (bonus tracks, live versions, studio banter, alternate versions, etc.) on those burned tapes that no one will ever get to hear (if there is still any), it does make your blood boil if you're a fan of any of the artists whose music was burned! :evil:

Whatever you might have to say on the subject (stories, thoughts, comments, anecdotes, rants, etc.) whenever you feel ready would be appreciated, I'm sure, by many of us who don't have the same "inside the music business" experiences as you have had! You do have a fascinating and unique window into processes most normal audiophiles and music fans don't get to see, so feel free to share away! 8)

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by AsOriginallyRecorded » 19 Jun 2019 04:51

A number of interesting perceptions and comments on this story, which happened over a decade ago! All valid, of course, and one would hope due diligence would be practiced in archiving such a valuable asset and resource such as recorded music originals. The suggestion that Universal was negligent in their chosen location and facility is probably true, given that better choices were certainly available to them. The mention of complacency is especially valid, in that we, as a culture, generally will only do what is absolutely the bare minimum necessary in such instances, relying on a "good enough" mentality. I subscribe to a two step philosophy concerning behavior. Step one is "What if...???", the second step essentially being an after judgement of the first, "What did you think would happen?" A story such as this amply demonstrates both sides of the conundrum. It definitely could have bee prevented. It is, unfortunately an unchangeable reality that it did happen. All one can do now is make sure it doesn't happen again. More than just an investment and asset, such art is culture and history, and belongs to all of us. Such a shame to be lost in such a way. Sad to think that future generations will never know the originals in the same way. :( :evil:

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by vinyl master » 19 Jun 2019 05:13

AsOriginallyRecorded wrote:
19 Jun 2019 04:51
The mention of complacency is especially valid, in that we, as a culture, generally will only do what is absolutely the bare minimum necessary in such instances, relying on a "good enough" mentality. I subscribe to a two step philosophy concerning behavior. Step one is "What if...???", the second step essentially being an after judgement of the first, "What did you think would happen?" A story such as this amply demonstrates both sides of the conundrum. It definitely could have bee prevented. It is, unfortunately an unchangeable reality that it did happen. All one can do now is make sure it doesn't happen again. :(
Even worse is the fact that they covered it up instead of telling the whole truth right out of the gate...Did they not think people would eventually find out about it??? :?

Also, with the recent burning of the Notre Dame cathedral, it seems nothing is really sacred anymore...Imagine if something ever happened to the Great Pyramids or The Louvre, say...Or something like the Greek temples, Redwood forests or Stonehenge? What's sad is when our history is lost, even our musical, literary and artistic history, there is nothing to replace it with, and the way to our future is through the lens of our past...When we have no past, we have no future! :(

...And as a student of history, we must do all we can to protect and preserve our heritage for future generations to come!

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by philbrown » 19 Jun 2019 21:29

There are many fails here at many levels.
First, what is the product that the record company sells? Records! Or CDs or cassettes. Not music.
It starts with record keeping. I know 2 companies systems, CBS and Warners. At CBS each song when recorded would get what was called a CO number and a card that would theoretically record everything that ever happened with that song. By the early 70s this system had broken down completely. While we still filled the cards out they were just stuck in the tape boxes. At my branch we had NO catalog system for tapes. By the mid 70s the LA studios had closed and SF closed in the late 70s. The tapes were packed up willy nilly and shipped to storage. With really no record keeping.
Much the same at Warners. There was a card file with information but it was incomplete. The Warner "vault" was a building much like the one at Uni the burned, just a steel tilt up. Nobody knew what was in there. In the mid 80s I did a Captain Beefheart album and searched the Warners vault for unreleased material Don might reuse. I found great stuff that Warners didn't know they had.
What mattered to the companies was making more product so they kept track of the EQ'd copies that we used to make replacement parts. We knew where THEY were. Masters? Not so much. Lots of times they weren't even in the custody of the company, they were still at the studios, particularly mastering rooms.
Come the CD and you got to buy your record collection all over again so they hauled out the copies and made CDs. But these copies were in many cases indifferently made and did not really reflect the program on the LPs. Combine that with problems with CD playback in the first players and here's what happened-I did this and everybody I knew did it. We A-B'd the LP and CD. The CD lost and a great hue and cry arose over how bad CDs were. This is when the original master push began and this was the point when they became valuable and this is when the companies started caring.
It's also when they discovered that they had no idea where many of these tapes were.
And as they say in the sitcom business, "Hilarity ensued."
So now this stuff has value and so they try to find it all and put it in one place so it can be cataloged and used. But the people in charge of this weren't higher up, they were grunts. Storing this stuff properly was expensive and the grunts didn't have the pull to get proper expensive storage so it was put anywhere with tragic results in many cases.
And once you find the tapes the question is which one is the right one? For example, the Stax singles Box was done at a studio I worked at. There were multiple versions of most songs with NO indication of which tape was used. In some cases we brought the actual singles from our collections to AB with the tapes.
The record companies learned too late that their product wasn't the physical record or CD, it was the program.
Phil Brown

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by vinyl master » 20 Jun 2019 03:40

Wow, Phil...It sounds like The Keystone Kops times twenty! :shock: So much looking back in hindsight and not enough foresight! And the sad thing is...Universal's archive isn't the only one people should be worrying about...You guys should read this, too! :shock:

https://www.laweekly.com/master-recordi ... ists-help/

We're talking THE Beatles and some of the greatest music the 20th Century ever produced! :(

I do find it interesting that they mention the older 50's and 60's tapes suffering less from deterioration than the tapes made in the 70's and 80's...How does one account for that paradox? :-k

Remember, too, that the main reason us audiophiles can tell the difference between a substandard copy and a brilliant-sounding LP is the fact that they probably used the original masters to create the good LP...When the original masters are gone, what will future releases of these albums sound like???? It's not like you can just recreate a master when it's gone, even if you have a "safety copy", the further out you go with succeeding generations of copies, the worse the fidelity gets...Without proper storage and care of these masters, future reissues may sound worse than today's, unless something is done now! All I know is that there has to be a better way!

In the meantime, we should be glad for those original pressings of LP's that are still out there or that we still own...Care and preservation of our own collections will mean that others may get to enjoy the fruits of our labors far into the future...As I said, I always think about that when buying used LP's...I ask these questions...

Who owned this album before me?

What will happen to it after I leave?

Will the next person who owns it care for it as much as I have?

For now, I am the caretaker and the steward of this album until I sell it, give it away or die...And hopefully, if I've cared for the album, it will bode well for the next guy who plays it!

Something we should all think about if we are collectors of any merit...And if we haven't thought about it, the pursuit of preservation should at least be a goal for the future...Buying decent equipment, cartridges and styli, as well as investing in decent boxes, shelves, sleeves and supplies can go a long way towards keeping our albums sounding pristine for a long time to come...Not that any of us are perfect by any stretch, but as long as we are actively pursuing that goal to protect our records, the rewards will eventually manifest themselves! :)

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by vinyl master » 20 Jun 2019 03:42

And by the way, the fire isn't the only thing Universal will have to worry about now...Their headaches have JUST BEGUN! #-o

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/lawsuit ... rsal-fire/

As Benmont Tench of Tom Petty's legendary Heartbreakers puts it... "The master recording is like a painting. When you stand in front of the original, you are standing there in the presence of the artist. You can take a photo of the painting, but no photo — regardless of how high the resolution might be — can truly capture what’s in the original canvas."

True words, people...True words! =D>

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by vinyl master » 20 Jun 2019 03:51

Oh...and speaking of underground facilities, I did hear about this limestone mine where Sony's masters are located...

https://www.businessinsider.com/inside- ... ity-2016-1

Maybe more companies should think about storing their archives in a similar manner...

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by philbrown » 20 Jun 2019 05:08

vinyl master wrote:
20 Jun 2019 03:40
Wow, Phil...
Much snipped

I do find it interesting that they mention the older 50's and 60's tapes suffering less from deterioration than the tapes made in the 70's and 80's...How does one account for that paradox? :-k

This way. The base used for tape in the 50s and 60s was acetate. By the late 60s and after it was polyester. Very different material. And it turned out that the binder-the glue that sticks the oxide to the polyester tape-deteriorated and the oxide would come off. Took a while, about 20 or 25 years, but it happened. Some brands and tapes were affected more than others. Ampex 456 was probably the most widely used tape and it was also the tape that suffered the worst from this problem. But Agfa had problems too. 3M-Scotch-was not affected the same way. But they all suffered from back coating problems.
This is why you hear about tapes being baked. It reactivates the binder and gets you one or two passes through the machine.
Phil Brown

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by philbrown » 20 Jun 2019 05:28

vinyl master wrote:
20 Jun 2019 03:40

https://www.laweekly.com/master-recordi ... ists-help/

For the gearheads among us the tape machine photo at the head of the piece is a Studer mastering deck loaded with 1/2" tape. It has 2 playback heads to provide the lathe with a preview signal.. All the roller guides are to put the right time between signals.
Phil Brown

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by johnnywalker » 20 Jun 2019 14:07


H. callahan
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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by H. callahan » 20 Jun 2019 14:35

The best was if UMG was compelled to take better care of the masters. As it seems they did not spent enough money on that - and if they now are sued for millions from several artists they might spend even fewer money on preservation.
I mean i get that the artists need to be compensated, but for the remaining masters it was best if UMG was sentenced to take proper care, i mean they are money, they could afford to do so right?
...

At least a big lawsuit could "motivate" other companies to take better care of their masters.

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by philbrown » 20 Jun 2019 16:15

H. callahan wrote:
20 Jun 2019 14:35

At least a big lawsuit could "motivate" other companies to take better care of their masters.
I think you've missed an important point. Uni and Sony et al own the tapes, not the artists. The tapes are considered work of hire. This is almost universal. Very few artists own their masters.
Phil Brown

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by vinyl master » 20 Jun 2019 17:48

philbrown wrote:
20 Jun 2019 16:15
Very few artists own their masters.
Phil Brown
Yes, but I'm sure MANY of them would love to! To quote the world-renowned Prince, an authority on the subject...

"If you don't own your masters, your master owns you."

And by the way, if this thread is correct, I think there are at least some out there who do own their masters...

https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/ ... ngs.93601/

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by philbrown » 20 Jun 2019 18:38

There absolutely artists who own their own masters. Neil Young, for one. They lease the masters to the company. He owns 100% of his publishing as well because he had-and has, same guy-a very smart manager and Reprise wanted Neil very, very badly.
The money is in publishing. For instance, Paul Simon owns his publishing. Imagine what that's worth.
Phil Brown

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Re: The Day The Music Burned

Post by H. callahan » 21 Jun 2019 02:58

philbrown wrote:
20 Jun 2019 16:15

I think you've missed an important point. Uni and Sony et al own the tapes, not the artists. The tapes are considered work of hire. This is almost universal. Very few artists own their masters.
Phil Brown
Hm, but if tapes are work for hire, who does pay for studio-time? I thought the artist has to pay himself - or do companies go to the Rolling Stones and ask: Can i hire you to make an album for me?
I mean "work of hire" sounds like the companies went to the artist and asked him to make an album. But it usually is the other way round, the artist wants to get into a studio to be able to make a record.