The New Format
Does anyone remember when people were crazy about this new technology called a “compact disc?”
There was a time somewhere in the late 1980s and all through the decade of the 1990s where record companies like Columbia and Sony were rushing to open up their old back catalogs and remaster and reissue great old recordings in this new compact disc format.
Giants such as Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, and Robert Johnson were given royal treatment in large boxed collections of their pioneering work.
At this same time, record collectors were making their rare early recordings available for remastering and re-release in CD form, often as compilations and boxed sets often collecting together all the known recordings of a particular band or famous early musician.
These recordings were released on a myriad of labels specializing in this kind of activity like Arhoolie, ASV, Audiophile, Classics, Document, Frog, GRP, JSP, LaserLight, Retro, Retrival, Rhino, Trikont, Yazoo, and a host of others. Many of these companies had been doing similar releases on vinyl LPs previously, but were now keen to participate in the CD market and bring the cleanest and clearest recordings obtainable to the CD buying public.
Paying The Piper
This was state-of-the-art stuff (usually) and a lot of talented people worked over these old recordings and blessed us all with a wealth of good quality material in digital form.
You also usually got this all packaged with a booklet of photographs and “liner notes” that would document the recordings and tell the reader about the history of the music featured on the CD. It was quite an education for those who were interested in this stuff and could read all that tiny print inside those booklets.
All this activity was paid for (maybe, possibly?) by the sales of CDs, the price of which remained relatively high on the consumer end because this was all happening before the advent of easy ripping, burning, file transfer, etc.
If you wanted the stuff, you bought a CD and enjoyed it by playing it in a CD player and that was about it. Eventually the technology to ‘rip’ a CD and store it as a digital file came along and then came peer-to-peer file sharing and the whole economics of the music business started to unravel from top to bottom.
Everything Is Free Now (that’s what they say…)
Well, here we are in the present age where the music is mostly no longer burned onto those not-so-compact plastic discs. It flies to and fro across the net and gets stashed in clouds and flashes across screens and gets captured in computer files.
I don’t know this for certain, but I doubt there is much activity going on in the remastering/ reissue business. Where would the money be? Nowhere that I can imagine. Did we find it all before the whole house of cards came tumbling down? I doubt it. Now the record collectors post YouTube videos of their rare 78rpm records spinning around for free on the internet.
I now have a hard drive with the digital contents of hundreds of plastic CDs (I kept everything as .WAV files because I am that way) and I even scanned all of those CD booklets so I could have the liner notes at my disposal when I am playing music off my laptop.
But I don’t know or use Spotify or Pandora and I never got into file sharing or taking things for free off the internet. I don’t know why, it is probably because I am ignorant, but I just haven’t had the interest.
I hope that someone will write an article for Swing DJ Resources about how one acquires or supplements a collection of vintage music in the current age, using the vast contents of the internet.
Whats the point of this discussion?
I guess it is just to say that when you get a cheap (or possibly free) track of some vintage recording and it has been cleaned-up and remastered and it sounds really nice, let’s give a nod of thanks to the CD buying public of 20 years ago. They may have footed most of the bill.
Thanks also to those labels and record collectors that got together to release this material in CD form. That digital file someone got from some unknown source may not give credit to their important role in the original existence of the data in that file.
Finally, let us all give thanks and respect to those great artists of yesteryear who still inspire us with their fantastic music!
If you have any thoughts or criticisms to add or any Thanksgiving wishes you wish to share, please post them in the comments section below!