A Master Recommendation

Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM, Compiled by Sarah Benzuly


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Twenty-five years from now, when an executive from one of the Big Two labels enters the vault to find the masters for a re-release of Best of the Dixie Chicks, what will she find? Tape, hard disk, magneto-optical, session files? And what about the individual tracks? Will she know what went where on the original mix?

In a two-pronged effort to both preserve our national recorded heritage and provide guidelines for delivery of masters, the Nashville section of the Producers & Engineers Wing of the Recording Academy has created a master document called The Delivery Recommendations for Master Recordings. The document first specifies the physical deliverables, with the idea that they should be accessible both in the short and long term. It then provides a glossary of technical terms and recording technologies, and closes with a call for proper note-taking and labeling, with the inclusion of sample forms.

“This has been in development for more than two years now, but it actually goes back to the MPGA days, when a bunch of us started talking about the need for some standards in delivery to labels,” says producer George Massenburg, who with producer Kyle Lehning and a small group in the Nashville recording community was largely responsible for kick-starting the effort. “When the P&E wing got a new director, Leslie Lewis, they started talking with us about narrowing it down for digital delivery and making it industrywide. But I think that this really could have only started in a place like Nashville, where there is a real sense of community, and producers, engineers, label executives and A&R reps will all sit down together.”

While there are issues to be worked out on individual projects, the most emphatic statement is that the committee includes a provision that all audio tracks be flattened and migrated to the Broadcast .WAV file format, including headers and metadata. Also, each master must be delivered with two backups of the same or greater resolution in two different formats, among which are some existing technologies — SCSI, FireWire drive CD and DVD-R, and AIT tape — as well as some future technologies.

“Two years ago, we set out to define a single delivery format,” Massenburg says. “But we quickly found that we couldn't. Technologies were just advancing too rapidly, and there were strong opinions from across the industry to open up the format list. If you think about it, two years ago, FireWire wouldn't have been an acceptable delivery format. Now it is. In the very near future, we expect Blu-Ray to be on the list.”

Existing analog material will be archived by transferring to at least 24-bit/96 kHz or, more preferably, DSD to ensure the best possible preservation.

To view the document, visit www.grammy.com/pe_wing/DeliveryRecs.pdf. Public comment is welcome by e-mailing p&edeliveryrecs@grammy.com.

Send Your “Current” News to Sarah Benzuly at sbenzuly@primediabusiness.com.

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