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The Day the Music Burned (nytimes.com)
153 points by pseudolus on June 11, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 92 comments

50 years from now the problem will be that we have preserved digital masters in the form of session files for various DAWs and it will no longer be possible to patch together the correct hardware, OS, plugins, and virtual instruments to recreate the session. Artists and producers are encouraged to create stems or bounces of all the individual tracks for the purposes of long term preservation, but this does not always happen.

That's basically the reason Steve Albini gives for staying analogue: https://youtu.be/p-uziD9AvrI?t=822 . That said, in some respects I don't think (not an expert) the situation is clearly worse than it was in the analogue days: it may be difficult to use or replicate some DAW plugin effect in the future, but it's not as if some studio's physical plate reverb unit, for example, was easy to replicate in another place or at a later time either.

Yeah probably more forward compatible to send/bounce wet effects to their own tracks and print all the tracks as audio.

Then in worst case scenario you can load the raw WAV (or whatever format) tracks in a future DAW.

This worries me greatly. I have worked in the music industry and most studios in my area only keep DAW sessions for about a year.

Sadly a lot of music is going to be lost in the next 50 years.

Besides from being able to fiddle with the multitrack myself at home, whenever I have studio sessions for my band I always ask for the stems. I remember a couple years ago while starting work on an EP at a local studio, the guy just deleted some band's sessions to make space for ours.

He didn't want to give me the stems, but we never released that EP anyway. When/if we get to re-record it, I'll be sure that is clear from the start.

Don't know if I'd have this luxury at bigger studios, but I'm starting to record my own material anyway. Home recording and software gear are incredibly powerful tools.

If you are paying for the session its completely reasonable to ask for a copy of the session files IMHO. If you are going to tape and they want to erase it and re-use it or something I would at least negotiate dumping it to digital.

I agree completely, but notice that many engineers and/or mixers seem to believe that the session/mix data (outside of bounced stems) is their IP. Which is truly stupid when you think about it.

Reading the list of jazz, soul, and rock artists whose material was lost just made me shudder. If an example of cultural devastation is ever needed, this is it. Jazz greats from the 40s and 50s. Popular music from the birth of rock and roll to the modern day. This is truly a tragedy. Why wasn't this material protected in, at least, a fireproof area, or, better, in some salt cave in the Utah desert?

> Why wasn't this material protected in, at least, a fireproof area, or, better, in some salt cave in the Utah desert?

...because the music business is far more interested in attempting to prevent the unauthorised copying of their material, than in preserving material for the long term?

> because the music business is far more interested in attempting to prevent the unauthorised copying of their material, than in preserving material for the long term?

I guess burning it is the ultimate form of copy protection.

You wouldn’t download a fire.

To be blunt, there's a lot of it and it's not actually that valuable. We've had CDs for 30+ years. If there's an album UMG thought it'd be worth digitizing, remastering, and reselling, they'd have done it by now.

Humanity generates information (works of art included) faster than it can be reliably archived, and as that information ages and no one is interested in it, it becomes less relevant. Maybe it's a bit nihilistic, but I've come to accept humanity only has finite memory for a cultural canon, and things will drop out of it over time.

>"To be blunt, there's a lot of it and it's not actually that valuable. We've had CDs for 30+ years. If there's an album UMG thought it'd be worth digitizing, remastering, and reselling, they'd have done it by now."

This is not even remotely true. Albums are re-issued and re-released all the time. Often times there will a renewed interest in an artist or their work from a death, some current artist sighting them as an influence or an artist making a comeback. Master tapes are the most valuable asset a record label has. It is also not uncommon for albums to go out of print for a period and then be released again many years later. And albums go out of print for all kinds of reasons. David Bowie's classic RCA catalog(Heroes, Low, Lodger etc.) were all out of print in the 80s and 90s. They weren't available until Bowie got the rights to his masters back - something called a "reversion"in recording contracts. So a record label could have ownership of the masters for 30 or 40 years before they revert back to an artist. After which an artist will likely reissue them since they generate income.

> Albums are re-issued and re-released all the time.

This is a tactic to stay on the charts and drum-up sales.

On the top-50 albums right now, many of which have spent YEARS on the chart,

- Queen: Greatest Hits I II & III: The Platinum Collection

- Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band: Greatest Hits

- Sounds Of Summer: The Very Best Of The Beach Boys

- Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

- Pink Floyd - The Dark Side Of The Moon


>"This is a tactic to stay on the charts and drum-up sales."

Uhm yes it's a business, it's called the "music business" for a reason. What's your point? To my point - Queen is there because there was just a huge biopic movie that won 4 Oscars. There is also an Elton biopic that was just released. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys had a big summer tour planned that was just cancelled. And Bob Seger is currently on tour. That's traditionally how the music business worked - artists toured to sell records in the markets they were playing in. Pink Floyd being on the charts is nothing new either. It's a constant. They have been on the top 200 for Dark Side since it was released in 1973[1]. And it spent decades on the chart before there were any reissues of it.

There is also no shortage of long tail content that sells well to diehard fans but not enough to chart. Visit Rough Trade Records in Brooklyn/London or Amoeba Records in SF or LA if you want to see just how big of a business "specialty" reissues are - most of which will never show up on any charts.

[1] https://www.billboard.com/articles/events/greatest-of-all-ti...

They may not have been financially valuable to UMG, perhaps, but I would argue that other value was still lost

In total agreement. Much of the material by artists in the 40s and 50s may be of interest to a small portion of the total population of music lovers today but that does nothing to diminish its worth. You don't like Duke Ellington? Fine. Charlie Parker? OK. Their works, none-the-less, are still an integral part of the musical fabric and history of this country and, actually, the world. They deserved much better care. Now, those original recordings are lost forever. It's like driving a stake through the Mona Lisa or knocking the head off of Michaelangelo's David. Yeah, there are replicas around but that, in no way, soothes the pain.

Yeah, most b-sides are b-sides for a reason.

There's actually no shortage of B side tracks that went on to became of the most famous, favorite and popular songs in rock history. Sometimes even eclipsing the A side. [1][2][3]

Everything from Elis "Hound Dog", The Smiths "How Soon is Now" to Zeppelin's "Hey Hey What can I do." B-sides are/were often a chance for an artist to release something the record company rejected for the album but the artist really wanted to release. B-sides are actually often things for the fans.

[1] https://ultimateclassicrock.com/b-side-big-hits/

[2] https://www.yardbarker.com/entertainment/articles/25_of_the_...

[3] https://www.radiox.co.uk/features/x-lists/b-sides-more-famou...

As a counterpoint, here are the B-sides from that British quartet of yesteryear, most of which were only released as singles (until the discographies were published decades later). Some of these are better than the A-sides. YMMV.

P.S. I Love You, Ask Me Why, Thank You Girl, I'll Get You, This Boy, You Can't Do That, Things We Said Today, She's a Woman, Yes It Is, I'm Down, Day Tripper, Rain, Yellow Submarine, Penny Lane, Baby You're A Rich Man, I Am the Walrus, The Inner Light, Revolution, Don't Let Me Down, Old Brown Shoe, Come Together, You Know My Name

The Anthology series is also a really good example of using archive material effectively. For example, you can see how songs like Strawberry Fields Forever and Day in the Life evolved over multiple sessions.

Well-illustrated point. And, 'Rain' might be my favorite Beatles song.

> Why wasn't this material protected in, at least, a fireproof area, or, better, in some salt cave in the Utah desert?

Because they don't actually care. No one in their right mind in these companies will sign off on releasing this stuff to somebody else. If some performance just happens to include someone famous and becomes worth any reasonable amount of money, the person who signed off will get fired.

The best way to preserve this stuff is to make copyright expire after 10-20 years. That way these companies can't just sit on these things indefinitely. They'll have to monetize it or someone else will likely come along and monetize it.

>"Because they don't actually care"

You don't have any idea how the music business actually works then. The sound recording copyright allows the owner of the master recording to generates revenue from "master use license fees." This is the permission to use the actual recorded version of the song in movies and television. When Martin Scorsese wants to use a Stones song in his movie, he must pay the "master use license fee" to the record company. These companies care a a lot about those fees and the masters that enabled them. I can assure you. The tragedy of this is more the result of two decades of mergers and consolidations of record companies whose headquarter are all in Los Angeles.

>"The best way to preserve this stuff is to make copyright expire after 10-20 years"

That's not actually how it works. The master recording copyright follows the physical media not the owner. What you are suggesting would actually hurt the artist. More especially so at a time when their recording was becoming a "classic."

> The best way to preserve this stuff is to make copyright expire after 10-20 years.

In that case, they’d just shred the masters unless someone offered to buy them for enough — and for most stuff, no-one would.

> In that case, they’d just shred the masters unless someone offered to buy them for enough — and for most stuff, no-one would.

Unlikely. Shredding costs time and money that no one will allocate.

Suddenly you have: "Well, these things are about to come off copyright, so if we don't get money now, we're never going to get any at all." So, someone looking to add a few bucks to his bottom line budget in the company will almost certainly toss them out at a reasonable price.

Contrast to now where the risk is that you sell off "Random Garbage 42" for $10,000 that happens to have a 10 second cameo of Elvis in it, and it becomes worth $250,000.

>"Why wasn't this material protected in, at least, a fireproof area, or, better, in some salt cave in the Utah desert?"

Normally they are kept in at least a climate-controlled vault as the oxide will eventually start flaking off the tape if its not stored correctly. I think the issue here was the sheer number of consolidations that UMG and the record business as a whole. The article mentions that were just a tenant at that point. Since the tapes are the assets that are acquired in a merger I'm sure someone made a call to some storage facility and said "move those things over here now." And eventually it became the purview of some warehouse worker.

Over the years the film industry has suffered enormous losses as well, in part because early movies used nitrocellulose based film stock which is highly flammable and susceptible to spontaneous combustion. The 1937 Fox vault fire is one of many examples of film loss that has continued to the present [0]. Sadly, the existence of a large number of silent movies is only known through reviews, film posters and past recollections of participants. Similarly, a great deal of video has been discarded, lost or reused. If I recall correctly some of the earliest Dr. Who episodes have been lost because the media on which they were recorded was reused.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1937_Fox_vault_fire

The original master tapes of the moon landing TV broadcast were degaussed and written over to save money too.[0] Pretty astonishing!


The management of one of the most impressive modernist buildings in Prague[1] thought it's a good idea to store such films in the basement with rather devastating consequences.

If you're only half of a modern art buff I strongly recommend a visit when you're in Prague.

[1] https://news.expats.cz/art/the-story-of-veletrzni-palace/

Not just Doctor Who; it was regular practice at the BBC to tape over old broadcasts. Also reminds me how there's no audio of de Gaulle's Appeal of 18 June.

IIRC Doctor Who is in fact unusual in that audio recordings (fan tapings?) survive of nearly all the lost episodes.

Similar losses, though less dramatic and less all at once, have plagued the software industry too and in particular video games. An enormous amount of source code and assets for stuff made in the 80s and 90s in particular has been lost for good, which makes it far more difficult to preserve and update them. If there is some tiny silver lining possible out of these modern Library of Alexandria permanent destruction of cultural heritage events, it's that they might ultimately help push back against the IP maximalists and towards better using digital advances for promoting science and the arts too. Beyond reductions in term back towards something more sane (though attribution should perhaps be split off), it would also be good to see a requirement that all sources to produce a work must be submitted, encrypted, to the Library of Congress (or similar) in order to qualify for copyright protection. Then they could be preserved and released once the work enters public domain (or if otherwise lost the copyright holder could request a copy for a fee).

Back when copyright was purely a product of the written word the ultimate master information was also by definition included in every copy. It would spread as part of sales, and upon leaving the period of monopoly could then directly be utilized and fully contribute to further advanced culture. But over time we've lost that without the laws adapting in turn, which has resulted in real permanent losses.

Also, kudos to the Times for going back and investigating this and helping bring it more to light, including explicitly calling out their own lacking coverage at the time. That it was covered up so much by an organization that has helped directly lobby for more protection is salt in the wound.

>A skeptic might argue that this is as it should be. In the 140-odd years since Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, countless recordings have been made under the auspices of record companies. To conserve anything close to all those recordings has proved impossible; it may not even be desirable. The caretaking of canonical material, the Bings and Billies and Nirvanas, must naturally take priority. To ask that the same level of attention be lavished on all music, including stuff that holds interest only for obscurantists, is to demand a preservation standard that prevails in no other area of culture. If the sole vestiges of thousands of old recordings are a few stray 45s lining the shelves of collectors — perhaps that’s not a cultural tragedy, perhaps that’s a commercial-art ecosystem functioning properly.

This sounds like an argument for all of that having been moved into the PD then long since and then letting culture at large take a shot at it all.

>Back when copyright was purely a product of the written word the ultimate master information was also by definition included in every copy.

Not strictly true. There is a difference between a copy of a Bach concerto and the original score in Bach's own handwriting, even if the copy captures all the notes perfectly. Original manuscripts can contain scratched-out parts which are nevertheless of great interest to scholars (for example, Kafka experts are deeply interested in every scratched-out word from Kafka's originals). Handwriting can convey information about whether the author was writing in a hurry, or had the luxury of taking her time. One could even fantasize about discovering hidden messages encoded somehow in the original handwriting, which would be totally lost in a naive word-for-word copy.

"See what large letters I am using to write to you with my own hand!" (Galatians 6:11)

I actually did consider things like author's notes and background material, but I stand by that not being the same as what you're describing anymore then I'd consider preserving a software project to also have to include every mailing list any dev posted to or all communications or whatever. Masters, source code/raw assets, and so forth are still final products produced from a development process, even if technical necessity then dictates they are then "compiled" into something targeting specific mediums.

Author notes, drafts, and original manuscripts, just like processes around music/movie/software production, can be interesting in their own right, but I don't think it's in the same bucket or has the same cultural implications.

On the other hand, the end result is released in polished form for a reason. As Llewyn Davis said, "In the entertainment business, you’re not supposed to let your practice shit out. It ruins the mystique."

I've got a lot of rare stuff downloaded from Soulseek back in the day that I expect I'll never be able to find again. One of my most spine-tingling tracks is a performance of "Flowers Die" by The Only Ones, far better than the one that made it into their rarities compilation, where a bit of feedback chirps serendipitously right after the line "There's a rustling behind me". You wouldn't even know it's a concert bootleg without the audience applauding at the end.

I realize this sort of contradicts my other comment, but I want to believe I didn't spend all those years as a music geek for nothing!

A lot of old master tapes self-destructed due to bad chemistry.

The binder material used to adhere iron oxide particles to the tape backing was, in many cases, slightly hygroscopic; over time, the binder absorbs water, breaking down that adhesion and causing the oxide to flake off when the tape is unspooled. The only known remediation measure is to bake the tape at low temperature, which will temporarily reduce the moisture content sufficiently to allow the tape to be played back and re-recorded.


Very impressive investigative reporting. Just a minor note. Whilst performance this might be the greatest, a few phrase seems out of place. culture wise the Alexandria suffer a bigger lost to humanity.

The scale is different, but the permanence is the same, and that's very profound because we tend to take it for granted that great works will no longer be lost like they were in the past. It's interesting to think about what will survive and what won't over a period of thousands of years. It seems almost unthinkable that any of the main Beatles catalog could ever get lost, library-of-Alexandria style. But on a scale of thousands of years, governments and nations will change, nothing is certain, maybe the whole Beatles catalog could indeed become permanently lost if the world gets taken over by dystopian censors. On a long enough timescale, anything's possible.

That is a heroically long article of which all I don't really have time to read, unfortunately. But it seems to me that these companies have an ethical responsibility to ensure that this important art is not lost forever, even if they technically own it and could ensure it never sees the light of day. What a loss.

Every large collection of art and irreplaceable originals is like that. That's one reason why projects such as archive.org and archive team are so important.

Just out of curiosity, would you have preferred reading it on paper? Long reads on screens are not so fun imo.

Printed to PDF the piece runs 36 pages, about 12,000 words, or roughly an hour's read.

It is long.

Exactly, it's more like a short book than a regular article, pretty long even by long-reads standard.

I was curious if people rather read content like this on paper than scrolling for an hour on a screen :)

I stopped reading when the article turned toward a history of the guy Aronson. I said to myself "Oh hell no, I'm not wasting my time reading about this guy I don't care about", I looked at the scroll bar and nope'd out of the whole article. Nothing to do with the delivery medium.

That was my exact process too, got to that section about Aronson, saw the scrollbar, and got out of there.

Looks like you followed my next step too, jumped into the comment section to see if someone posted about an interesting highlight that I might have missed by skipping the rest of the article :)

YouTube has a nice video of Brian May going thorough the master for Bohemian Rhapsody. It gives a good idea of what’s on a master and also interesting insights into how they overcame some of the technical limitations of equipment at the time—like recording multiple times over the same track to make up for limited channels on the tape-based system. Really interesting stuff.

I'd actually say the biggest disaster in history of music is what.cd being shut down. They had the largest collection of hard to find music, meticulously curated and in lossless formats. I doubt there will ever be such a complete collection and it was devastating to see it get killed like that.

I normally don't bother posting replies to comments on here, but I have to point out that this is an unbelievably bizarre and wrongheaded interpretation of the scale and depth of this disaster. Curated collections of lossless streaming music are possible to recreate. Master tapes can NEVER BE RECREATED. Comparing the loss of a collection of reproducible fungible audio files with analog magnetic tape is misinformed at best and disingenuous at worst.

I understand your point, but what good are master tapes if they're not available to be heard? I think you could argue that destroying a musical distribution network has the same effect as destroying music: it's no longer available to be consumed.

Mastertapes contain the music precisely as recorded by the artist themselves. They're not meant to be listened to or consumed actively -- they're there to serve as indelible recordings and references. Scholarly work on Jazz, for example, relies extensively on the existence of master tapes. Here's why:

When you record music to a multitrack magnetic tape like most of the recordings in this vault, you then get the ability during playback, for example, to fade individual tracks in and out. This would allow you to, e.g. isolate the sound of just McCoy Tyner's piano track on a classic Coltrane recording. Hearing his playing on it's own, without the rest of the band, could allow a music researcher to hear notes and sounds that might be masked by the final product recording, which flattens the recording.

One way of understanding this issue, which might appeal to the HN audience, is this: The process of "flattening" tracks to make the final sound recordings that we end up hearing as consumers is a lossy form of compression, even if the sound file format you consume it in is described as "lossless."

That's all well and good, but the problem with this obsession with master tapes is that they don't last forever, and degrade over time, along with every time they're taken out and handled and run through a player to create another "remaster" that has no dynamic range and lots of clipping distortion, since that's apparently what consumers want these days.

Source code vs compiled or layered Photoshop file vs flat JPEG.

>I understand your point, but what good are master tapes if they're not available to be heard?

But they might be. The article itself gave examples of music long ignored that was rediscovered and became of interest, at which point the company could go to its archive and digitize the masters again with the latest tech. They did keep it archived in the first place for a reason after all. Alternatively with advancing tech and changing management the time may come when they'd be able to and decide to floor-perfectly digitize it all. Or down the road the public zeitgeist might change and support requiring the above.

Whether or not they were private, they at least represented potential, real and significant potential. Just like the Brazil museum that burned, or so many other sad losses. Having that potential destroyed forever can be rued even if it's not fully certain it'd be realized can't it?

>music long ignored that was rediscovered and became of interest, at which point the company could go to its archive and digitize the masters again with the latest tech.

For anyone interested check out the part-isolated "mogg" files from the Rockband games.

Harmonix doesn't really like people getting those stems out of the games, though (it can affect their ability to license music going forward). I'm part of the GH community, and when RB4 was ripped, HMX got pissed. Admittedly, the people downloading the rips largely didn't care about analyzing the music, they just wanted to play RB4 songs for free, so I totally understand why they'd be pissed.

They care far less about the stems they put out in the pre-RB days, in GH1/2/80s. But they were mostly covers in the first place (except for the bonus songs, and a small handful of main setlist songs).

>"I understand your point, but what good are master tapes if they're not available to be heard?"

Because they are they are the source for the products that music fans by. Remixes, re-issues, box sets and alternate takes all come from master tapes. Without the masters none of these things are possible. You are in fact "hearing" those master tapes just a copy of them. It's an incredibly privileged few who are able to sit and listen to the original 24 track 2 inch reels in a recording studio. VH1's show "Classic Albums" show often does with the artist and producer/engineer as the format of their TV show. It's worth watching for this aspect alone. There is a great example of why this is important in the article regarding the 50th Anniversary release of The Beatles's Sargent Peppers. These things would not be possible without the master tapes. The first generation of CDs in the 1980s are laughably bad fidelity. Now imagine the masters for many recording disappeared after those horrible fist early 1980s releases. Those terrible CD versions would be our source of everything going forward.

It's the difference between not available now, and, destroyed for all eternity.

Steelmanning, if you’re certain you’re correct then you should assume the OP was misinformed, in which case why not kindly explain why without being aggressive? Educate us rather than attack us, please!

They did explain and so does the article:

From the article:

>'2. The Truest Capture It is sonic fidelity, first and foremost, that defines the importance of masters. “A master is the truest capture of a piece of recorded music,” said Adam Block, the former president of Legacy Recordings, Sony Music Entertainment’s catalog arm. “Sonically, masters can be stunning in their capturing of an event in time. Every copy thereafter is a sonic step away.”'

There is no recording with fidelity greater than the master tapes. It is the canonical "lossless" audio source. To state that the loss of a retail outlet that sold consumer products is somehow greater than the loss of 175K original audio recording from which all retail products were generated from is truly bizarre. I didn't take the OP's tone aggressive just one of astonishment.

Remember that what.cd only stored metadata files like .torrents/magnets/.cues/etc. I doubt very few, if any, of the rare releases there were actually lost; they're still out there somewhere in the Internet. What was lost was the platform and the community that allowed said rare music to be easily shared and propagated.

Can you still use a cached copy of what.cd since all it hosted was metadata that you could pull downloads from?

Assuming the original masters are preserved. Plenty of stuff does get lost, discarded, and occasionally the warehouse burns down: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/11/us/master-recordings-univ...

The digital copies often is all there is.

Was screaming really a need in this post? Despite what you wanted to communicate, that was my take away.

There have been some replacement Gazelle trackers that have popped up in its place, but they're definitely fractured bits of the whole that was what. Not only was it an incredible place just to find the music that you were looking for, but it was a community dedicated to the preservation and restoration of music. It taught me loads about audio codecs and compression, and was my introduction to the world of programming and automation. I miss it deeply.

Most of the music on WCD originated from physical media which still exists in the world. I would say mp3.com being wiped was much more significant in terms of truly lost music.

IMO the shutdown of Oink's pink palace was much worse than what.cd. What.cd was the bits of OiNK that people had bothered to archive...

This was true of Waffles. They were just torrent sites. People used them, musicians approved, leaks happened, and everything else that pirates do went down there. What.CD, however, became a place that was trying to build an archive of every piece of recorded music ever created. If a version of an album wasn't on there, a bounty was created that was often compelling enough that people would spend time and money hunting down a copy of it.

They weren't just torrent sites, they housed communities and (eventually on What) music graphs that led to countless new musical discoveries for users. If Oink wasn't shut down, What.cd wouldn't have existed - it was simply the precursor. Waffles was just (IMO) a slightly less popular destination for the diaspora of Oink users.

It was the same at OiNK's, at least for certain genres. Purely from the community itself.

In the end, what.cd collection was several times bigger than oink

Forgive my ignorance, but was what.cd the private tracker with an insane interview process that people have written guides about? If so, then I see parallels - self-appointed gatekeepers of culture create a single point of failure, shit hits the fan one day, countless amount of work is lost.

Although people are always hesitant to say the name, I actually think you're thinking of Redacted. There's a whole website and IRC room prepping for the entrance exam. Unfortunately, the site is just as joyless as the exam process would lead you to suspect. The top discussion in /r/trackers right now is about exactly that.

That's the one. Although the interview was mostly to make sure you knew the basics of how audio files worked and why people on the site cared about upholding their quality: nothing an hour of studying couldn't prepare you for.

The database of various rare releases, artist graphs, user collages, etc. were the biggest loss.

Thanks. I never really had the patience to manage ratios and survive on private trackers, and fishing for invites and passing an interview to get into the secret treehouse was too much for me.

Too late for that of course, but couldn't that data have been stored somewhere away from the questionably legal stuff?

what.cd didn't host anything, so all the shutdown did was scatter the community. Since with p2p everything is on someone's local drive at the end of the day, it didn't destroy any files and didn't stop files from being seeded by peers. Only a matter of time before the community rallies again imo, or someone dumps all the magnet links into a text file and passes that around for all to seed. An unhosted what.cd would be immune to the RIAA and other scum.

There were several indie music sites that shut down that had really good stuff on them too. I always wonder what happens to the media that carried the data.

Is there anything like it left today?

Gotta be an onion site somewhere, right? Wish I knew.

There are indeed trackers trying to fill the void.

You're forgetting oink.

Losing the master tapes is like losing the source code. As the years pass and new OS versions are released, eventually that old executable will stop working. Sure, you'll always be able to run it in a VM, but it'll never get any better.

I read this as ‘The Day the Music Died’. [1]

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_the_Music_Died

Blame Capitalism.

If one company weren't hoarding master copies of these works of art for the purposes of profit, then the world would have lost nothing in that fire.

If music were owned by the people, we would never risk a single point of failure wiping out musical heritage.

Sure, if the people financed the creation of this music or purchased the masters, then they could own the masters too. Would you expect Apple to put its iPhones in the hands of the public for free and easy copying and distribution? Why do you think music should be any different?

Please don't take HN threads into generic ideological flamewar.


I'm deeply concerned about the impact that this will have on the music documentary. Without a fat idiot pulling a fader at a mixing desk in a poorly lit room so we can just hear the drum beat alone while describing an utterly standard 4/4 time, poorly played derivative drumming as "groundbreaking" I fear for the genre. We've already lost atmospheric cigarette smoke haze, what next?

Biggest disaster? More like the second-biggest disaster after the conflagration that took down what.cd.

Perhaps this will serve the same purpose fire does in a large, old-growth forest.

I really don't see the analogy between the burning up of a library full of unique material and a forest fire.

If you felt that the library of Alexandria burning down made life better somehow for those that came after then I'm all ears.

I can see it from the perspective of "well, now others can have that same joy and accomplishment of rediscovery", which is a sort of a silver lining, I guess. But I agree, such losses have far more negatives than positives.

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