Then in worst case scenario you can load the raw WAV (or whatever format) tracks in a future DAW.
Sadly a lot of music is going to be lost in the next 50 years.
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.
...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.
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.
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.
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
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. 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.
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.
P.S. I Love You,
Ask Me Why,
Thank You Girl,
I'll Get You,
You Can't Do That,
Things We Said Today,
She's a Woman,
Yes It Is,
Baby You're A Rich Man,
I Am the Walrus,
The Inner Light,
Don't Let Me Down,
Old Brown Shoe,
You Know My Name
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.
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."
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.
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.
If you're only half of a modern art buff I strongly recommend a visit when you're in Prague.
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.
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)
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.
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!
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.
It is long.
I was curious if people rather read content like this on paper than scrolling for an hour on a screen :)
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 :)
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."
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?
For anyone interested check out the part-isolated "mogg" files from the Rockband games.
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).
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.
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.
The digital copies often is all there is.
The database of various rare releases, artist graphs, user collages, etc. were the biggest loss.
Too late for that of course, but couldn't that data have been stored somewhere away from the questionably legal stuff?
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.
If you felt that the library of Alexandria burning down made life better somehow for those that came after then I'm all ears.