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Old 06-11-2019, 02:40 PM
HyacinthBucket is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Chicago
Posts: 156

"The Day the Music Burned" - NY Times article

"It was the biggest disaster in the history of the music business — and almost nobody knew. This is the story of the 2008 Universal fire."

It's behind the NYT paywall but for anyone interested in the music industry it might be worth the cost of a month's subscription
Main article:

brief overview:

Just a very brief excerpt from ChorusFM:

"... The archive in Building 6197 was UMG’s main West Coast storehouse of masters, the original recordings from which all subsequent copies are derived. A master is a one-of-a-kind artifact, the irreplaceable primary source of a piece of recorded music. According to UMG documents, the vault held analog tape masters dating back as far as the late 1940s, as well as digital masters of more recent vintage. It held multitrack recordings, the raw recorded materials — each part still isolated, the drums and keyboards and strings on separate but adjacent areas of tape — from which mixed or “flat” analog masters are usually assembled. And it held session masters, recordings that were never commercially released. […]

"The list of destroyed single and album masters takes in titles by dozens of legendary artists, a genre-spanning who’s who of 20th- and 21st-century popular music. It includes recordings by Benny Goodman, Cab Calloway, the Andrews Sisters, the Ink Spots, the Mills Brothers, Lionel Hampton, Ray Charles, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Clara Ward, Sammy Davis Jr., Les Paul, Fats Domino, Big Mama Thornton, Burl Ives, the Weavers, Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Bobby (Blue) Bland, B.B. King, Ike Turner, the Four Tops, Quincy Jones, Burt Bacharach, Joan Baez, Neil Diamond, Sonny and Cher, the Mamas and the Papas, Joni Mitchell, Captain Beefheart, Cat Stevens, the Carpenters, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Al Green, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Buffett, the Eagles, Don Henley, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Iggy Pop, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Barry White, Patti LaBelle, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Police, Sting, George Strait, Steve Earle, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, Eric B. and Rakim, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Guns N’ Roses, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Sonic Youth, No Doubt, Nine Inch Nails, Snoop Dogg, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Hole, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent and the Roots..."

a few other discussions:
"When I invite a woman to dinner, I expect her to look at my face. That's the price she has to pay."
Otis B. Driftwood

Last edited by HyacinthBucket; 06-11-2019 at 02:42 PM.
Old 06-11-2019, 03:42 PM
ZipperJJ's Avatar
ZipperJJ is offline
Just Lovely and Delicious
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Northeast Ohio
Posts: 25,253
Wow! That was a beast of an article.

I do see how the storage, upkeep and catalogging of those tapes have a super-low ROI for labels, and am in no way surprised that things got that bad.

But, over 80 years of popular music now, they've buried themselves under a mountain of tapes that is just too unwieldy to get out from under, even if their ROI can go up based on interest of these old originals.

It would be nice if estates could get these recordings back, to be honest. But then how well would those estates be able to preserve them?

I was glad to see that labels are moving stuff to Iron Mountain, and IM is even putting recording studios in their facilities to help with the recovery and use of the tapes. But even that solution seems like a dead end - there's still no organization. How can that be?!

What would be super great would be if Jeff Bezos, who knows a thing or two about warehousing and logistics, would take this on as a project.

As someone who works in data and appreciates music, it drives me crazy that this isn't all well cataloged!
Old 06-11-2019, 05:54 PM
Dewey Finn is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 28,195
The article gets into some of the downsides to moving these archives to places like Iron Mountain. For one thing, retrieval is entirely based on barcodes on the tapes or discs so if something is mislabeled or the wrong barcode is listed in the company records, it's going to be hard or impossible to retrieve. Also, the article suggests that offsite storage reduces the serendipitous discoveries. "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.)"

It's tough; the companies are mostly interested in the new stuff, as that's selling the most, but there's still money to be made in the back catalog and there's quite a few treasures in it. But the storage costs are enormous.


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