By George Petersen
I HAVE MASTERS–LOST MASTERS–ON MY MIND THIS WEEK. A couple days ago, I got a blog reply from a guy named Tony Vick, who once upon a time, was in a band called “The Din.” So far so good, but the bad part comes in because the group was signed to Rocshire Records, a label funded entirely by money embezzled from (aircraft giant) the Hughes Corporation. Tony had read an archived copy of my “How to Make a Million Bucks in the Music Biz” AudioBites column (July 2007) and was wondering if I had any leads on how he could get access to his masters.
Unfortunately I don’t have any leads to help him–maybe someone out there knows where the FBI keeps master tapes that were seized as part of criminal investigation 25 years ago, but my guess is that the odds aren’t in Tony’s favor on their survivability today. And IF anybody does know, please drop me a line and I’ll get the word out.
Anyway back to today’s story… A month ago, I wrote about walking through URBAN ORE, the local recycle/reuse store three blocks from the Mix offices, across the border in Berkeley.
During my lunch hour today, I went by to peruse their latest offerings. Every once in a while, this place has something surprising–by the way, that Neve/Necam 96 power supply is still on the shelf there–but what I saw today was both odd and sad: Hundreds and hundreds of reel-to-reel tape masters–analog and digital (probably Mitsubishi)–which mostly were marked with notes/track sheets from Fantasy Studios, although some had Hyde Street Studios markings. There they were, quarter-inch, half-inch, 1-inch (probably ProDigi 32-track) and tons (literally) of 2-inch analog reels–piled up high on pallets and rolling freight carts. Most seemed to be mid-late ’80s and ’90s–and mostly Ampex formulations.
How did they get there? This one’s easy. Most studios offer tape storage for clients’ materials, and over time, people forget to pick up their masters. And with the recent ownership change at Fantasy Studios, somebody figured (and rightly so) that they weren’t really responsible for master tapes from sessions going back two decades or more, so after being degaussed, these abandoned masters went off to the recycle store.
Warning to the wise: If you have masters that you’ve been storing at some studio–any stiudio–from years back, you might just look into getting them back–before they disappear.
When not working on Mix stuff, George Petersen records and performs with the SF Bay Area-based rock band ARIEL. Click here www.jenpet.com/ariel.html and check ‘em out.
RESPONSE FROM FANTASY STUDIOS
Nina Bombardier, the previous studio manager, tried for 1-1/2 years prior to the changeover of ownership to contact the rightful owners of the tapes. While many people did respond and pick up their masters, there were many who did not. I personally witnessed her day after day try to contact people via phone, email, and letter.
Feeling that more than the â€śbest reasonable effortâ€? was made to contact the owners of the tapes, Concord Records, the previous owners of the studios made the decision to donate the remains to Urban Ore for recycling.
All tapes had been degaussed before and after donation.
The state of California states that it is a courtesy not an obligation for a studio to store the works of an artist more than 30 days. (This is something that we stress to clients).
Many of these tapes had been there 20 or 30 years. Having to clear out the vault for a new tenant forced the decision.
I share this to give a more complete picture to the situation.
REPLY FROM GP: Thanks Jeff, for the clarification. Certainly it was never my intent to blame either you, Nina, or Fantasy Studios for the disposal of masters that were essentially abandoned after some 20+ years of storage. But at least youâ€™ve made it clear that prior to disposal, these were properly degaussed. So rather than a treasure hunt for lost masters, maybe this is an opportunity for on-a-budget recordists to perhaps pick up some bargain 2-inch stock, as I assume most of the 1/4-inch stuff is full of splices and leader, making it less than useful for re-use, except as a source of clean take-up reels. My main intent in the column was to wake some people up who may be facing similar situations where their masters may be lurking in other facilities.
Thanks again for your comments. â€“George Petersen
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