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  1. Yesterday
  2. LasseJ

    Vad lyssnar du på just nu?

    Mark's lillebror som lämnade Dire Straits när de höll på att spela in "Making Movies" är inte lika känd som brorsan men han gör mycket bra musik. Albumet "Songs for the Sirens" kom 2006.
  3. AlfaGTV

    Fototråden

    Jag behövde bara göra 30km på hojen för min middag!
  4. figge

    Fototråden

    Fick cykla 12 mil innan jag fick tillgång till ribsen.
  5. AlfaGTV

    Fototråden

    Trevligt! Själv blev jag bjuden på kylling idag så jag bjöd tillbaka på neroBaronj! Gott skit, sa kyparn!
  6. figge

    Fototråden

  7. calle_jr

    Musikhörna och experimentverkstad

    Det är en skog av fenomen att ta hänsyn till, men kolla på denna figur som baseras på en sammanställning gjord av Shure Brothers 1973. Naturen har inte ändrats nämnvärt sedan dess Det blir väldigt illustrativt hur spårningsförmåga, nåltryck, ojämna skivor, graveringshastighet, komplians och massa hänger ihop. Det är ingen slump att grundresonansen bör ligga mellan 8 och 12 Hz. Högre tonarmsresonanser är förvisso besvärliga eftersom de förvränger signalen inom audiobandet, men de är inte så kraftiga som grundresonansen som skapas ihop med pickupen. Vi vet att nålslipningar, geometrier och delkomponenter har utvecklats avsevärt sedan dess, men de är samtidigt mer krävande och mindre förlåtande än dåtidens pickuper.
  8. MatsT

    Musikhörna och experimentverkstad

    Kan man nog säga, 32g! Tonarmen har en rörlig massa på 9.5g och det är väl med original-skalet på plats så klumpen längst fram dominerar på alla sätt. Det är inte så känsligt med tonarmens massa när PU'en ordnar den erfordeliga massan själv men de rekommenderar en stabil och resonansfri arm och det gör man väl i och för sig alltid?
  9. calle_jr

    Musikhörna och experimentverkstad

    Ja. Och om plattan till nålvågen är tjockare än en LP så slår den avläsningen mer än +/-20% SPU är väl ganska tung, och med SME 3009 kommer nog masscentrum under lagringen.
  10. MatsT

    Musikhörna och experimentverkstad

    Minnet svek mig lite när det gällde rekommenderat nåltryck och nu har jag anskaffat utrustning och kunskap för att åtgärda felet. Mellan 3 och 5 gram ska det vara och min inställning med hjälp av mindre bra våg visade sig vara åtminstone i närheten av det jag ville ha. Jag justerade in det till det rekommenderade intervallets övre del. Det kan kanske se dramatiskt ut med ett fel på mer än 1g men det är faktiskt inte mer än 20% fel, nu ska det i alla fall stämma.
  11. Last week
  12. JWE

    Uppdatering av forummjukvara

    Det är väl endast Medlem+ (>200 inlägg) som kan bifoga filer på forumets servrar? Kanske gäller samma lika i Pm.
  13. figge

    Vad lyssnar du på just nu?

    Stevie Nicks på torpet.
  14. new order

    Vad lyssnar du på just nu?

    Riktigt bra! Värt en lyssning.
  15. AlfaGTV

    Uppdatering av forummjukvara

    @Richard, hur var det med möjligheten att bifoga filer? Vilka av oss medlemmar får alternativet att "Click to choose files" när man skriver en post eller ett meddelande till en annan medlem? Försöker mig på en konversation innefattande bilder med @KSM, men han saknar den möjligheten.
  16. Säljer min Chord Hugo2 då jag har Chord Qutest också, minimala skillnader till Hugo2:s fördel men utnyttjar inte mobiliteten i Hugo2 så den får lämna. Nypris är 22.890 och jag vill gärna ha 17kkr. Detta är mina andra Hugo2 och endast några månader gammal. Köpte den för att jämföra med Qutest som till en början hade långt till Hugo2 i ljudkvalitet men efter inspelning seglat ikapp ordentligt. Alla tillbehör som fjärr osv samt en Supra usb som är den bästa jag testat av usb.
  17. sprudel

    Vad lyssnar du på just nu?

    Ane Brun ”Leave med Breathless, live” Fin inspelning och Ane Brun som är en favvo.
  18. figge

    Figges ljudlåda

    Var nära att ringa supporten(byZan) idag ingen kontakt med ljudenheterna, hade glömt att jag drog ur nätkabeln i morse då det åskade.
  19. Daniel

    Vad lyssnar du på just nu?

    En av mina favoriter gör en del på den plattan Jose Gonzales (Junip) Mycket bra soundtrack.
  20. calle_jr

    The Day the Music Burned

    6. The Shadow Canon Until recently, Randy Aronson never listened to streaming music. Now he is one of Spotify’s reported 100 million subscribers. “The music sounds like it was mastered in a Coke can,” he says. “But on long drives, it’s the best.” The past couple of years have brought changes for Aronson. The new archiving job he’d hoped for never materialized. Now, he says, “My enthusiasm for the music business has dimmed.” In September 2017, Aronson and his wife, Jamie, sold their house, bought a trailer, and drove nearly 650 miles to Humboldt County, on the Northern California coast. Today they live in the trailer, in a campground near a state park. Jamie works in the health care industry. For a while, Aronson worked as a security guard in a shopping mall. He recently started a new job as a project coordinator at a nonprofit that serves low-income residents of Humboldt. Aronson still broods about the Universal fire. He reflects on his earliest days at MCA. “When I saw those names on the tape-box bindings, my mind reeled,” he said recently. “There’s Elton John, there’s Steely Dan. Here I am with Chuck [expletive] Berry.”Aronson recalls the Bing Crosby tapes, the Ella Fitzgerald tapes, the Louis Armstrong tapes. “The disappointment and responsibility I feel is sometimes overwhelming,” he said. Some of the sharpest pangs come when Aronson’s thoughts drift to lesser-known records. A loss that hits him hard, he says, are the tapes of Moms Mabley, the pioneering black female comedian who released 16 LPs for Chess in the 1960s. “It’s not like Moms was selling in huge numbers,” he says. “I doubt there’s many copies out there.” There are more mysterious losses. “So many things would come to the vault straight from studios and get shelved,” he says. “You know, Nirvana production masters with extra songs no one ever heard. There were Chess boxes that just said, ‘Session.’ Often there was no other info, no metadata. Who knows what was on those tapes? We’ll never know.” Kurt Cobain in 1991, shortly after the release of Nirvana’s ‘‘Nevermind’’. Credit: Michel Linssen/Redferns/Getty Images The specter of these unknowns hovers over the Universal disaster. But many of the destroyed recordings fit a different profile. They were, you might say, super-deep catalog: masters for thousands of also-rans, records that neither clicked commercially nor achieved cult status and slipped through the historiographical cracks. Even if a massive digitization program had been in place, it would likely not have extended to forgotten bubble-gum singles, disco one-offs and other long-lost nonstarters. 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. Perhaps. But history holds a counterargument. Many recordings were ignored for decades, only to be rediscovered and enshrined as Imperishable Art. The Velvet Underground were a commercial bust in the late 1960s and early ’70s but have proved to be one of the most influential groups in history. Then there’s Nick Drake, the English singer-songwriter who recorded three LPs of dreamy jazz-inflected folk between 1969 and 1972, before his death at age 26. During Drake’s lifetime, his albums sold modestly. A cult fan base developed following the release of a box set; in 1999, Drake’s song “Pink Moon” appeared in a Volkswagen commercial, and sales went through the roof. All three of Drake’s LPs were included in Rolling Stone magazine’s 2005 tally of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. “The music business intercepted about a century’s worth of sounds, the vast majority of which it lost money on,” says Andy Zax, the producer and writer. “Much of that music, at any given moment, may seem dated, irrelevant, terrible. The most powerful argument for preservation is simply: ‘We don’t know.’ The sounds from the past that seem vital to us in the present keep changing. Since we don’t know what’s going to be important, we have to err on the side of inclusivity and insist that the entities that own our cultural history do the same.” Elton John, 1970. Credit: Ray Stevenson/Shutterstock Recently I’ve been on a hunt — rooting through used record stores and scouring the internet to find rarities whose master tapes burned in the UMG fire. Some of these records were reissued and have found their way onto streaming services. The music may have trickled online elsewhere, preserved by some private enthusiast: Someone uploaded a song or two to YouTube or digitized an LP and posted it on a blog. Often the recordings are available only on the vinyl that was sent out to record shops decades ago. I’ve discovered the riches of labels I’d never heard of: Back Beat, Argo, Nashboro. I’ve listened to gospel and blues on Peacock, to psychedelic rock on Probe. I took a particular interest in AVI Records, whose catalog includes a bit of everything: rock and funk and soul, a slew of disco singles, more than two dozen Liberace LPs. As a teenager, I was a rabid record collector; later, I worked as a pop critic, laboring under the impression that my grasp of music history was firm. But tracking down remnants of the UMG disaster has been a lesson in the limits of standard historical narratives and a reminder of music’s illimitable plenteousness. The vault on the Universal lot housed another history, a shadow canon of 20th-century pop. AVI Records was hit hard by the backlot fire. According to UMG documents, AVI’s entire catalog of 9,866 tapes was destroyed. One of those tapes was the master for an LP by Don Bennett, “The Prince Teddy Album,” released in 1977. Bennett is a fascinating figure who straddled musical worlds. He grew up in Pasadena. In his early 20s, he began writing and arranging soul-flavored pop records by independent artists. Bennett was black, but he defied the music industry’s racial typecasting. Around 1967, he drifted into Los Angeles’s garage-rock scene; he did arrangement work on records by the renowned L.A. band the Standells and can be heard singing lead vocals on some recordings by another influential group, the Chocolate Watchband. Bennett also has writing credits on songs by both bands, including what may qualify as the earliest musical sendup of hippie counterculture and one of the first punk-rock-like sentiments ever recorded, the Chocolate Watchband’s “Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love-In)?” The bulk of Bennett’s musical production dates from a 10-year period between the late 1960s and late 1970s. He formed a pop-soul band that recorded one single and led a hard-rock trio that released two albums. But Bennett released no recordings after 1978. According to one of his former bandmates in Los Angeles, Bennett died sometime in the late 1990s. You won’t find his name in history books, but if you dig into his scattered discography you meet an original: a musician who combined a command of craft with an insurgent’s flair for the impish and odd — the kind of weirdness that can’t be faked. “The Prince Teddy Album” was Bennett’s fullest musical statement that ever saw commercial release. Today it is a musical endangered species. It was never reissued, and its digital footprint appears to comprise just two and a half songs, posted to YouTube by users who, evidently, made transfers from the vinyl. Those songs were enough to pique my interest: Last year I bought the LP online for $75. At the time, there were just a few copies for sale; it’s unlikely that many more copies are out there. It turned out to be one of the great impulse purchases of my life. The album throws together muscular funk, blasts of electric guitar, eerie synthesizer undulations, lush Philadelphia soul. The inspiration of Sly Stone and George Clinton is audible in Bennett’s singing and in the woozy blend of genres. But a list of influences doesn’t tell the tale: The cleverness of the songwriting and arrangements, the slightly shaggy singing and playing — it seems to originate from its own musical planet. The tone is set by the album-opening song, “Don’t Wanna Spoil Your High.” It begins with a dissonant rumble from a keyboard, which gives way to a chugging groove. A choir of female vocalists hoots in the distance, and Bennett’s voice rises over theirs, cajoling and cackling, as if amused by the sound he’s making and the words he’s singing. The lyrics are enigmatic: “Don’t let the facts upset you/Nobody’s out to get you/I don’t want to spoil your high/But they’ll get you by and by.” The song seems to be executing several agendas simultaneously: It’s a consolation and a threat, a party invitation, a druggie hallucination, a prophecy, a gag. I’ve played the song dozens of times, strapping on headphones and letting the needle drop on the still pristine LP. Each time, I’m struck by the loss of Don Bennett, a singular musician who left behind so few traces, and by the disappearance in the Universal fire of an unfathomable number of other recordings, some of which may survive only on stray scraps of vinyl, many of which may no longer exist at all, in any form, anywhere. But listening to “Don’t Wanna Spoil Your High,” I’m struck also by Bennett’s uncanny presence: his gruff half-laughing voice, captured by recording-studio science in the late 1970s and still crackling with life in 2019, transmitting a message across the gulf of time and space. “I’m speaking my words of wisdom, gonna make it very clear,” Bennett sings. “Bend your head right over, baby, I’ll whisper in your ear.” Jody Rosen is a contributing writer for the magazine. His book about the history of the bicycle will be published in 2020.
  21. LasseJ

    Ditt senaste skivinköp...., del 2.

    David Knopflers nya kom i brevlådan idag.
  22. calle_jr

    The Day the Music Burned

    5. Deep Catalog On May 27, 2010, a group of celebrities, politicians and Universal Studios officials appeared at a news conference on the Universal backlot to mark the reopening of New York Street. The speakers, including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and the president of Universal Studios, Ron Meyer, praised the firefighters who had battled the 2008 inferno and rhapsodized about the rebuilt set. The name given by Universal to its rebuilding effort struck a heady note of regeneration and renewal: The Phoenix Project. A year and a half earlier, Universal Music Group embarked on its own recovery project. In an apparent coincidence, the program’s nickname was nearly identical to the one chosen by its former sister company. But UMG’s Project Phoenix would not culminate in a splashy ceremony; no gleaming tape vault would rise from the ashes. In the decade-plus since the fire, UMG has shifted many of its masters into the hands of third parties. This is typical of the record industry at large: In the 21st century, the job of archiving major labels’ masters has largely been outsourced. UMG began Project Phoenix in October 2008. The plan was to gather duplicates of recordings whose masters were lost. Those copies would then be digitally transferred to reconstitute the lost archive — albeit in sonically inferior form, with recordings generations removed from the true masters. UMG undertook a global hunt, searching for safety copies and other duplicates at a variety of locations in the United States and abroad. The project lasted two years and, by Aronson’s estimate, recovered perhaps a fifth of what had been lost. The recordings were transferred to Linear Tape-Open, or LTO, a tape format used for archiving digital data. Copies were placed in storage holds on both coasts: at an underground vault in Boyers, Pa., and a high-rise facility in Hollywood. Both vaults are run by Iron Mountain, the global information-management and storage giant. UMG is not alone in its reliance on the multibillion-dollar company. Founded in 1951 under the name Iron Mountain Atomic Storage Corporation, the company initially catered to the warehousing needs of American businesses and to Cold War anxieties, promising to secure documents in a nuclear attack. By the 1980s, its warehouses and subterranean vaults held paperwork and assets for private concerns and public institutions, from banks to corporations to the federal government, which remains a major client. Today several of the company’s nearly 1,500 facilities are devoted to entertainment assets. Warner Music Group stores hundreds of thousands of master recordings in Iron Mountain’s Southern California facilities, and nearly all of Sony Music Entertainment’s United States masters holdings — more than a million recordings — are reportedly kept in Iron Mountain warehouses in Rosendale, N.Y. The Boyers, Pa., facility where UMG keeps most of its United States masters is a 1.7-million-square-foot former limestone mine. The facility offers optimal archive conditions, climate control and armed guards. For labels, Iron Mountain is a one-stop shop. In addition to providing storage, it runs on-site studios, so staff members can pull tapes and send digital transfers to labels online, avoiding any need for recordings to leave the premises. Yet some music-business insiders regard this arrangement as a mixed bargain. When masters arrive at Iron Mountain, they say, institutional memory — archivists’ firsthand knowledge of poorly inventoried stacks — evaporates, as does the possibility of finding lost material, either by dogged digging or chance discovery. (Many treasures in tape vaults have been stumbled upon by accident.) Tapes can be retrieved only when requested by bar-code number, and labels pay fees for each request. For years, rumors have circulated among insiders about legendary albums whose masters have gone missing in Iron Mountain because labels recorded incorrect bar-code numbers. The kind of mass tape-pull that would be necessary to unearth lost recordings is both financially and logistically impractical. “I’ve always thought of Iron Mountain as that warehouse in the last scene of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ ” says Thane Tierney, who co-founded Universal’s now-defunct reissue label Hip-O Select. “Just endless rows of stuff. It’s perfectly safe, but there’s no access, no possibility of serendipity. Nearly all the tapes that go in will never come off the shelf. They’re lost to history.” Sheryl Crow in 1997. Some of her recordings were kept in the UMG archives. Credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns/Getty Images There are other institutions devoted to preserving sound recordings. In January 2011, the recorded-sound section of the Library of Congress announced its largest-ever acquisition: approximately 200,000 metal parts, aluminum and glass lacquer disc masters, donated by Universal Music Group. The recordings, dating from 1926 to 1948, are among the oldest extant masters in UMG’s catalog. Physical ownership of the masters was permanently transferred from UMG to the federal government; UMG retained the intellectual-property rights. The library is free to preserve the recordings, digitize them and make them available to scholars. The label can continue to exploit them commercially. For the label, it’s a great deal, transferring preservation responsibility for some of its most fragile assets while saving on storage costs. Today, of course, a seemingly infinite music library sits at the fingertips of every smartphone owner. The rise of Napster and file sharing in the early 2000s decimated the music business; as recently as 2015, the industry was widely judged to have been broken by digital piracy. But with the rise of streaming, a new era has arrived. In each of the past three years, recorded-music retail revenues have surged by more than 10 percent, with the Recording Industry Association of America reporting $9.85 billion in revenue for 2018. A full 75 percent of that revenue came from streaming, and more than half of the total went to UMG, in what Billboard described as possibly “the most dominant year by a music company in modern history.” This streaming boom is only the latest in a long history of technological upheavals in the music industry. Shifts in format — from wax cylinders to shellac discs to LPs to CDs and MP3s and now streaming — arrive periodically to transform the record trade. The newest development is a shift within a shift, the advent of high-resolution audio, with streaming services offering premium products built on high-quality sound. The platform Tidal recently started a subscription product called Tidal Masters, described by the company as “the ultimate audio experience ... thousands of master-quality songs.” As in the CD era, the industry is trading on the mystique of masters — and once again it is running up against the imperative of keeping those original recordings around and in good shape. To deliver “master quality” audio, you must return to the masters. The loss and discovery of these ur-recordings is a perennial topic of interest in music news: In the past few weeks, Prince fans savored the release of a new collection of classic song demos pulled from his vault, while Mike D of the Beastie Boys made news by revealing that the masters of their hugely popular 1986 debut album cannot be located. The resurgence of the record industry in the streaming era would seem to bode well for the cause of preservation. In 2017, Bruce Resnikoff, the head of UMG’s catalog division, told Billboard that “the catalog business is having its biggest expansion since the CD.” A report by BuzzAngle, which analyzes online music consumption, found that about half the music streamed on demand in the United States last year was “deep catalog,” songs three or more years old. A catalog boom could theoretically push labels to digitize more archival recordings. But a question remains as to how deep “deep catalog” extends. The old songs most listeners are streaming are either recent hits or classics by huge artists like the Beatles and Bob Marley. Labels may not see much incentive to digitize less-popular material. Some view digitization as a moral imperative. Archiving failures have left untold numbers of analog masters damaged and in states of decay. Gerald Seligman, the National Recording Preservation Foundation director, sees a ticking time-bomb scenario: Endangered masters need to be identified and transferred before they are no longer playable. “The figure I hear is about 10 years,” Seligman says. “That’s the window we have to digitize massive amounts of music on improperly-cared-for perishable media.” But digital recordings are perishable in their own right — far less stable, in fact, than recordings on magnetic tape. A damaged analog tape is not necessarily a lost cause: An engineer may be able to perform restoration work and get the recording to play. But when a digital medium is compromised, it is most likely gone. Many masters from recent decades are kept on hard drives, notoriously fragile mechanisms that may not function after sitting for years in a vault. Today, labels increasingly rely on digital-tape formats like LTO. But LTO is backward compatible for just two generations. Labels must either continually retransfer their archives or maintain outdated playback equipment. All these problems are exacerbated by the structure of the music business, in which hundreds of labels have been consolidated into three huge ones, which in turn have been absorbed by global conglomerates. The necessity of safeguarding a sound-recording heritage may appear abstract to executives at a distant parent company, who may simply see an expense on a balance sheet marked “Storage.” The fate of millions of recordings does finally come down to blunt cost-benefit judgments. To invest in comprehensive preservation and digitization programs is not cheap, but it’s not beyond the means of UMG or the other major labels. “It all comes down to funding and priorities,” Seligman says. Eleven years after the fire, UMG defends its commitment to conservation. “In the last five years alone,” its statement says, “we have more than doubled our investment in storage, preservation and metadata enrichment while developing state-of-the-art systems to support our global efforts around capturing, preserving and future-proofing our many media assets.” Even critics concede that to cast blame solely on penurious corporations is to ignore a bigger picture. In recent decades, the cause of film preservation has made strides, spurred in part by the politicking and largess of individuals like the movie director Martin Scorsese, who has embraced preservation as a crusade. No analogous effort has taken place within music. Artists famous for activism around masters, like Prince, have construed the issue strictly as a labor-versus-management struggle, a matter of individual artists’ rights, not as a question of collective cultural patrimony. The most prominent musician to advocate for sound preservation on broader historical grounds is the singer-songwriter Jack White, who donated $200,000 to the National Recording Preservation Foundation and sat on its board. “People who have made fortunes in film have been more interested in contributing toward preservation than those who’ve made fortunes in music,” Seligman says. “It’s viewed as a niche issue, when in fact it’s an existential issue. Musicians themselves don’t seem to understand what’s at stake.” Muddy Waters at Chess Records around 1952. Nearly every master recorded for the label and its subsidiaries was destroyed in the fire. Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
  23. calle_jr

    The Day the Music Burned

    4. Cathedral of Sounds The history of music-archiving misfortunes extends far beyond UMG’s ruined vault. It stretches back decades and encompasses nearly every significant record label. That history was detailed by a journalist, Bill Holland, in a two-part exposé, published in Billboard in July 1997. Holland revealed the loss and destruction of “untold numbers of recordings, old and not so old.” Record companies have tossed masters in bulk into dumpsters and buried them in landfills. During World War II, labels donated metal parts masters to salvage drives. Three decades later, employees of CBS Records carved up multitrack masters with power saws so the reels could be sold to scrap metal dealers. Catalog material by top stars sometimes suffered the same fate as obscure recordings. Holland discovered that a purge of multitracks at RCA in the 1970s included tapes by the best-selling act in the label’s history, Elvis Presley. Countless more recordings have been lost to shoddy storage practices. Tapes have been mislabeled, misplaced and misfiled; tapes have been marooned on high shelves in disorderly warehouses, left at loading docks, abandoned at shuttered recording studios. In 1972, decades before the Universal inferno, a fire struck an MGM Records warehouse. Holland reported that masters for MGM and the jazz label Verve were damaged or destroyed in the fire and in the months following, when surviving recordings were kept in an open shed. The preservation laxities were dictated by what seemed at the time to be common sense. For decades, the music industry was exclusively a business of now, of today’s hot release, of this week’s charts — of hits, not history. “Nobody cared about catalog,” says an industry veteran. “Stuff that was five years old might as well have been 1,000 years old.” One insider said, “Most senior executives in the record business have no understanding of what masters are, why you need to store them, what the point of them is.” Crucially, masters were not seen as capable of generating revenue. On the contrary: They were expensive to warehouse and therefore a drain on resources. To record-company accountants, a tape vault was inherently a cost center, not a profit center. These attitudes prevailed even at visionary labels like Atlantic Records, which released hundreds of recordings by black artists beginning in the late 1940s. In his Billboard exposé, Holland mentioned a 1978 fire in an “Atlantic Records storage facility in Long Branch, N.J.” Holland did not reveal that the “facility” was the former home of Vogel’s Department Store, owned by the family of Sheldon Vogel, Atlantic’s chief financial officer. Late in the 1970s, Vogel told me, Ahmet Ertegun, Atlantic’s president, complained about tapes cramming the label’s Manhattan office. Vogel suggested moving the material to the empty Long Branch building. Vogel was on vacation on Feb. 8, 1978, when he learned the building had burned down. The 5,000-plus lost tapes comprised nearly all of the session reels, alternate takes and unreleased masters recorded for Atlantic and its sublabels between 1949 and 1969, a period when its roster featured R.&B., soul and jazz luminaries, including Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. Today the importance of those tapes is self-evident: thousands of hours of unheard music by some of history’s greatest recording artists. But to Atlantic in 1978, the tapes were a nuisance. According to Vogel, Atlantic collected “maybe a couple of million dollars” in insurance on the destroyed masters. It seemed like a good deal. “We thought, Boy, what a windfall,” Vogel says. “We thought the insurance was worth far more than the recordings. Eventually, the true value of those recordings became apparent.” Chuck Berry amid reels of tape in a Chess studio around 1971. Credit: Gilles Petard/Redferns/Getty Images When Randy Aronson began working as a music archivist in the mid-1980s, he had no idea what a master was. He grew up in central Los Angeles and, like many L.A. kids, his ambition was to get into show business. He did some theater during the years he attended college and continued acting into his early 20s, performing in dinner theater while making ends meet with odd jobs. In 1983, when he was 25, Aronson took a full-time position on the Universal Studios lot, in the mailroom. To work on the lot was to bask in Hollywood history and Hollywood kitsch. The site was opened in 1915 in a rural stretch of northern Los Angeles. Gradually, that pastoral site became the lot, a bustling maze of offices, sets and soundstages. In 1958, the Music Corporation of America (MCA Inc.) bought the lot from Universal Pictures. In 1964, MCA executives, seeking a new source of revenue, developed a studio tour, which soon expanded into a full-fledged amusement park, with rides and attractions. After two years in the mailroom, Aronson sought new work on the lot. In the spring of 1985, he got a temporary position in the tape vault of MCA Records, the music conglomerate that would later be renamed Universal Music Group. It wasn’t a glamorous gig. The archive was huge and poorly organized, with thousands of tapes misshelved or improperly labeled. Aronson’s task was to impose order on the chaos. He had no previous experience with preservation work; he was fuzzy on the basics of sound recording. He learned, he says, “tape by tape.” Aronson was a rock fan with a deep appreciation for the musical past. He was tickled when he stumbled on tapes for favorite albums, like the Mamas and the Papas’ “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears.” The work was tedious, but Aronson had a strong sense of mission and of his own good fortune. When he arrived at the vault each day, he had the feeling he was entering a cathedral stocked with relics. The Mamas and the Papas in 1967. Master tapes from their classic 1966 album “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” may have been lost in the Universal fire. Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images Less than a year after taking the temp job, Aronson was asked to run the archive. It was a period of sea change in the music industry. In the early 1980s, the first compact discs had appeared in American record stores. Over the next decade and a half, CDs would turbocharge the business, a run that climaxed in 1999, when revenue from recorded music in the United States reached $14.6 billion. LPs had dominated for more than 30 years, but the arrival of CDs encouraged listeners to replace record collections at huge markups, paying up to three times the price for an old album in a crisp new format. The avidity with which consumers snatched up even poor-quality CD reissues was a revelation: proof that catalogs could be cash cows. The result was a reissue boom. Master tapes were essential to this new line of business. But at the MCA vault, Aronson and his colleagues faced challenges, the consequences of archiving failures dating back decades. Aronson grew accustomed to finding gaps in the collection, “tapes that should have been there and were not,” he says. The vault facility itself was problematic. MCA’s music tapes were stored on the ground floor of the film-archive building. The temperature in the vault was 35 degrees Fahrenheit, the correct conditions for storing film, but too cold for music tapes. When masters were pulled and transported to recording studios, they emerged from the frigid vault into the Southern California heat. Aronson received reports that tapes were arriving at studios in bad shape, cracked and crumbling. By 1990, MCA’s music archive had moved to a new home on the backlot: Building 6197, a big metal shack that had been built to store theme-park souvenirs. A new concrete foundation was poured to accommodate a heavy load of tapes, and HVAC systems were installed. Yet problems persisted. The inventory was still kept on 5 x 7 cards, and the checkout system involved scrawled notes in three-ring binders. “We got the vault to a point where it was well organized,” Aronson says. “But it wasn’t well inventoried. It was hard to sell a return-on-investment on an inventory. It was not a company priority.” Without a proper inventory, MCA had only a vague idea of what was, and wasn’t, in its archive. “When someone asked for a tape, we’d look on the shelf and see if it was there,” Aronson says. “If it wasn’t, we knew we had a problem.” Soon, new concerns arose. In the fall of 1990, a Universal Studios security guard started a fire that whipped across the backlot, causing an estimated $25 million in damage. (The guard was convicted of arson.) The fire reached the doorstep of Building 6197, but firefighters beat back the flames. Aronson began to reconsider the prudence of maintaining a tape library on the studio backlot. “For a long time, I was seduced by the lot,” Aronson says. “It was like being in Narnia. I saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in a dress smoking a cigar. There were camels and elephants walking past. I was so in love with being on the lot, I hadn’t thought through the dangers.” Five large fires had hit the backlot in the years between the studio’s founding and the arson incident. In 1997, another major fire was ignited by an overturned set light. There were pyrotechnic materials on the backlot, used in films and featured in tourist attractions. “The King Kong ride had explosions, all day every day,” Aronson says. “Flames shooting up. Right next door to the vault.” In addition to the backlot archive, UMG had tape collections in Pennsylvania, outside Nashville, in upstate New York and in a separate location in Los Angeles. Over the years, the company’s masters holdings grew as mergers and acquisitions brought new labels — and new tape libraries — into MCA’s portfolio. In 1995, the Seagram Company acquired an 80 percent interest in MCA Inc.; the following year, MCA’s music division was renamed Universal Music Group. Seagram purchased PolyGram Records in December 1998 and soon merged it with UMG, adding several hundred thousand masters to the company’s archives. Most PolyGram masters — including material released on such sublabels as Mercury, Island and Motown — were housed in a rented warehouse in Edison, N.J. One day in May 2004, Aronson got a call from a colleague. A crisis was unfolding at the New Jersey warehouse. According to depositions in UMG’s later litigation with NBCUniversal, an accident in the warehouse space directly above UMG’s tape vault resulted in a broken water main. Aronson flew to New Jersey, where he learned that the upstairs tenant, a food-service company, had loaded too many pallets of salad dressing into its storage hold, caving in the ceiling above the UMG vault and rupturing a pipe as it crashed down. At the warehouse, Aronson beheld a gory scene: collapsed Sheetrock, dangling electricity lines, hundreds of shattered salad-dressing bottles and a foot of water flooding a vault that held 350,000 master tapes, including the entire Motown catalog. The destruction of all those masters was averted only by quick action: a rescue-and-restoration effort which, according to Aronson, cost $12 million and entailed the hiring of a dozen trucks equipped with 53-foot refrigerated trailers to freeze-dry wet tapes. Even more than the 1990 backlot fire, the New Jersey incident shook Aronson’s assumptions about how, and where, UMG should secure its masters. Aronson says he urged UMG to abandon the backlot, shifting the recordings to a safer location. Eventually, Aronson says, a compromise was reached: Most of the session reels and multitracks stored on the backlot, about 250,000 tapes, were moved to the archive in Pennsylvania. This left approximately 120,000 masters — 175,000, if you accept Aronson’s estimate — in Building 6197. These were the recordings that burned on June 1, 2008. “I get why there was a feeling of safety,” Aronson says. “We had our own fire department. But still I look back on it and I wonder: What the [expletive] was anybody thinking putting a tape vault in an amusement park?” Sonny and Cher in 1966. Credit: Photo by Powell/Express/Getty Images
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