How many of you have held a reel of 2” tape in your hands (or had one dropped on your toes)?  They were heavy (about 11 ½ lbs), and expensive.   They used to cost about $200 for enough 24 track tape to record about 16 ½ minutes of audio at 30 inches per second (ips). 33 minutes if you recorded at the noisier 15 ips. It wasn’t unusual for an album-length project to use thousands of dollars worth of 2” tape.

Storing them took a lot of space and care to prevent them from becoming unplayable after a few years.  If you wanted to make copies of the tapes for safekeeping it was expensive. Making safety copies added thousands to the budget.  The right time to make safety copies was at the end of the recording – when the budget had already been spent.  In most cases that meant that the multi-track tapes were never copied.  Instead, you hoped that nothing went wrong with the tapes and that the record label knew how to take care of them.  It turns out that isn’t always the case, as this article highlights:

https://globalnews.ca/news/5408445/universal-music-fire-alan-cross/

Reading about the haphazard care that some record labels take with the master recordings they own made me start thinking about the way studios, musicians and record labels are storing master recordings in the digital recording age.  Maybe it would be more accurate to say – the way they are not storing recordings.

These days most recordings are done in the digital domain and stored on hard drives.

The best data out there suggest that hard drives are likely to fail after 3 to 5 years (https://www.prosofteng.com/blog/how-long-do-hard-drives-last/).  However, it’s possible for any hard drive to fail even if it’s brand new.   That’s why we always recommend that the artists we work with back up any digital data as soon as possible.  Making a copy of your session to a separate hard drive significantly reduces the risk of losing all of your hard work.  Today a hard drive with enough storage capacity to hold multiple album-length recording projects can be purchased for less than $100.  Making safety copies of your music is cheap and fast compared to making analog tape copies, so it’s foolish to not do it!

As a case in point, I was working with a band that was recording to their own external hard drive.  We had been working all day and captured some great performances. The artist didn’t want to make a copy of the data to one of our drives as they were worried about possible leaks of their new songs, but they didn’t have a backup drive of their own either.  At the end of the session, they took their drive, with the only copy of their work on it, and left the studio.  The drive was dropped in the studio parking lot and hit the ground.  They immediately came back into the studio to check it, but unfortunately, it had been damaged by the impact and was not readable.  They decided to send it off to a data recovery service.  It ended up costing them more to recover some of the data than the entire original session had cost them.  As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

So what’s the best way to store digital data?

The standard for digital data preservation in most creative communities is based on recommendations from the Library of Congress (LOC).  They recommend that all digital projects should be stored in at least 2 different formats in 3 different locations.  What does that mean to you?

There are 3 formats commonly used for data storage: 1) Hard drives (internal and external) 2) Digital Tape (LTO is probably the most popular format for this) 3) Cloud storage or AML storage (Automated Media Library).  For cost reasons, the two formats that are more feasible for most artists are hard drives and cloud storage.

Make sure to have at least 2 different hard drives to store your project data on and keep them in different places.  (USB Flash drives are generally not a good choice for long term back up as they are more prone to environmental damage and subsequent failure than a good external drive.)  Keep in mind that even the best hard drives are likely to fail within 5 years, so plan to purchase new hard drives every few years and copy your projects to the new drives to keep them safe.

The second format and possible 3rd location could be any one of several cloud storage options.  Currently, Amazon, Apple, Backblaze, Dropbox, Google, and Microsoft all offer cloud storage options that may work for you.  These are good options for data security but will likely involve an annual storage fee that depends on the size of the recording project.

At Morrisound, we can and do offer to keep a temporary backup copy of your project data to give you some extra data safety while you make your long term backup plans.  Recording studios, in general, do not have the capacity to offer long term storage.  Most will offer to retain a copy of your project for a limited time.  Long term storage is the responsibility of the artist and/or their record label, not the studio.

Conclusion:

If you’re working on a recording project you know how much time and energy you’ve put into it.  Don’t take unnecessary risks with your hard work.  Invest a little time and money to safeguard your data by making and maintaining backup copies!  Copy your recording sessions to at least 2 different hard drives that you keep in different buildings (keep one at home and leave one with another band member, a Safe Deposit box or your Mom) and find a cloud service you can afford to save your final masters.

 

When Jim and I were playing in a band together during our college years, we had the chance to take our band into a recording studio to record some cover songs for our club demo, as well as take a stab at a couple of original songs.  We fell in love with the creative process.  Neither of us could think of much else for a long time after that experience.  We both decided that if we ever got the chance to somehow have our own recording studio we had to do it.

At the time (late 1970’s early 1980’s) there was no way put together a decent recording studio for less than a few hundred thousand dollars.  24 track reel-to-reel analog recorders were the state of the art – and cost in the neighborhood of $50k.  A recording console was a necessity – and cheap ones were close to $100,000.  Then you add the mics, cables, sound treatment, headphones, etc.  It was a big buy-in.

Fast forward a few years – I was working in Gulfport MS for DuPont as a chemical engineer.  Jim was working in Tampa at a music store and playing in a band.  I decided to try my hand at recording at my house.  I bought one of the best quality early versions of “home recording” tech available at that time – an Otari MX 5050 8-track ½” reel to reel tape recorder.  The recorder came in two pieces – the transport and the audio interfaces.  It was big and heavy, but it sounded great!

Otari MX 5050 8 Track

I also had to have a mixer with mic-preamps and routing to be able to send signals to and from this beast.  I chose a Tapco C-12 – mostly for its low cost, but also because it had a better reputation than almost anything else in that price range.

Tapco C-12 Mixer

 

Before long I was recording demos in a spare bedroom.   Jim took some time off and came to visit.  We had a great time making some really bad home recordings, but we decided that it was time to get serious about our dream of having a recording studio.  Our first step was to take my home studio out of my house and put it in a “Hi-Cube” van.  The Morrisound 8-track remote truck was born.

Tom starting the buildout.

Construction complete – ready for Gear.

Jim checking the wiring.

Morrisound Recording was ready for the road!  My relocated home studio opened the door for us to become one of the biggest studios in Florida a few years later.  Our first paid sessions were using this remote rig to record on location – we were in the process of building our 24 track room, but that would take us months to complete.

Today it doesn’t take a lot of money to have a home studio – a computer, a good microphone, and pre-amp with a decent interface and you’re ready to start recording.  We are still enthusiastic fans of artists having their own place to record and create.  We have always tried to find ways to help musicians get the best possible recording for their budget.   Today, much more than back when we started Morrisound, that means getting the most out of their home studio.  We have helped dozens of musicians put together the best equipment they can afford and get the biggest bang for their
buck.

We started Morrisound as a home studio because Jim and I were passionate about being a part of the creative process of making a record.  We still are.  If you want to know how to get the most out
of your home studio give us a call!

“River Runs” was recorded and co-produced at Morrisound Recording by Tom Morris. Here is the most recent article featured on usf.edu about this exciting and innovative project:

Call it the journey of a lifetime. When USF Distinguished Professor Chuck Owen wrote his new CD, River Runs, he was inspired by his own personal journeys down America’s most iconic rivers. Now, he has been nominated for one of the nation’s most iconic and prestigious music industry awards.

At the 2014 GRAMMY Award nomination announcement on December 6, Chuck Owen was among the nominees in two separate categories: Best Instrumental Composition for Bound Away, and Best Instrumental Arrangement for Side Hikes: A Ridge Away. Both tracks are part of Owen’s newest CD, River Runs: A Concerto for Jazz Guitar, Saxophone & Orchestra(MAMA Records) – a five-movement concerto, more than an hour in length, combining a full symphony orchestra with a jazz ensemble (The Jazz Surge) and jazz soloists on guitar and saxophone.
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