Of course it’s the money

Eliminate “Maybe” from the first line and I’d say this gets it just about right.

Maybe it’s the money.  While secular artists/record companies/archivists really have the stash to properly preserve and appreciate the historical archives of their genre, maybe this industry does not.  And maybe no one really cares.

I have been on the front lines of enthusiasts who have searched out the historical preservation of a secular artist’s catalogue and demos that were kept in a major label’s vaults.  It was all there and preserved.  But this was RCA (at least in the beginning–now who knows what the company is called–BMG?).

Anyway, the Radio Corporation of America and its successors had enough capital to make sure these treasures were kept for future generations.  Did the owners of Benson and other small regional labels have the money to do the same?  That has to be in question.  That may be the answer.

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  1. Kyle wrote:

    Funny thing is, RCA & Benson are now both part of Sony/BMG…

    Here’s a rundown of Sony/BMG’s labels under Provident:

    Benson Records, New Haven Records, Essential Records, Flicker Records, Beach Street Records, Reunion Records, Praise Hymn Trax

  2. Trevor Haley wrote:

    Just a few comments regarding the availibilty of secular artists’ masters. It’s fairly common knowledge among Elvis collectors that many of his early RCA and Sun Masters were thrown out by RCA in the late 50’s as part of a vault cleaning raid. For instance, the original “Hound Dog” sessions are gone today as far as we know.

    On early Beatles’ tunes such as “She Loves You”, the original multitrack master tapes were reused. There was never a true stereo mix done of that song because of this. Things improved over time and labels did a better job of archiving material. Still, age and environment almost always take their toll.

    As far as Gospel material goes, there are tapes sitting around studio vaults all over Nashville that were never collected by the label or the artist. I know of one studio that sent out letters to many of the artists and/or labels a few years ago that had tapes sitting in the vault. They received little response and many masters were trashed. Hindsight is 20/20, and how do you know at the time what might be historically significant? It’s a costly and time-consuming effort that must be made, and not only those in Gospel music are guilty of being irresponsible.

  3. Kyle wrote:

    Granted, it may never be of any significance, but I have made CD masters of all of my projects, as well as data CD’s with all the artwork, and have them stored in a climate-controlled, fireproof safe.

    When I was recording my first full-length project, my hard drive crashed with half-finished mixes. All of the multitrack files were lost, and all I had left were rough mixes I’d burned for reference. Essentially, half of my first CD was unfinished songs.

    I also heard a rumor that a VERY prominent group sent a project to be mastered, only to find out the entire hard disk had been erased. Months of recording and mixing was gone. They even went as far as to send the disk to a government agency to try to recover the data, but alas, no such luck. They had to start the entire project over from scratch.

  4. cdguy wrote:

    Having worked in and around some of those smaller companies 20+ years ago (the era we’re talking about here), I can tell you the bigger Christian labels (at that time) like Benson and Word generally kept the masters in their “vault”, which was little more than a glorified closet. Not much in the way of climate control, if any. Their major artists (Speers, Gaither, Goodmans, Kingsmen, et al) would not have been recorded over. They may have recorded over some of their c-list or d-list, but not on a regular basis. And perhaps more so on the multi-tracks (16- or 24-tracks) than on the 1/4 inch 2-track (stereo)masters. It just wasn’t done.

    Now, as for what may or may not have happened to those masters in the mean time is anybody’s guess. As the companies grew less and less dependent on s/g, many of those masters may have become deteriorated beyond repair, and therefore destroyed. Some may have genuinely become lost over multiple office moves. Of course, a lot of that would be due to neglect and/or lack of respect (on the part of perhaps newer or younger emplyees or interns) for the history involved.

    I know an artist who owned his own masters from his old Benson projects, as well as others he had done. When he moved a few years ago, his masters got put in a box in the attic, and he now says he doesn’t think he could find them if he wanted them. I’m sure that happens on a corporate level, too. Especially with the multiple personnel changes that take place.

  5. Brett wrote:

    It can’t be any costlier then paying studio studio musicians or making new music. In fact restoring old music should be cheaper today then recording a whole new project. I could be wrong, what do I know, I am just a dumb truck driver.

  6. quartet-man wrote:

    #5. actually over time maybe it would be, I don’t know. Either way, once the initial project is released and out for a while, the masters may not be quite so profitable anymore. At least not for quite a while. Eventually they can release them on compilations, reissues etc. if there is enough demand for the artists, but I imagine a lot of SG isn’t that way, and it is a pretty small pie to begin with. (I am talking $$$ not the value to us collectors.)

  7. cdguy wrote:

    Brett, It’s probably not just the cost of restoring the old music, but that cost vs the demand. While there may be hundreds of visitors to this website (and other sites, obviously) who might be interested in buying a copy of those restored pieces, is the demand (or perceived demand) enough to cause some big-wig label executive at Sony, Word, or whoever owns those masters this week to agree to pay a sound engineer for the tedious labor-intensive work required for that restoration, verses hiring that same engineer to record new music from a Chris Tomlin or Michael W Smith or Nicole C Mullen, who would probably sell 100,000 or more units.

    I’m sure you’re not dumb. As a driver, would you drive 200 miles on speculation you might get a load that might pay $500., when you had a sure-thing $5,000. haul in the next county? Same principle.

  8. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    #5 and #6 -

    Yes, in a way, but you can’t bring George Younce or Vestal Goodman back for the vocal session.

  9. quartet-man wrote:

    #8, no, but many who would have wanted the recordings already bought them. I don’t know how many new fans they are developing. I would love Travelin’ Live, Land Of Living and Especially For You on CD (the latter was released, but poorly.) Even with groups like the Statesmen and Blackwoods, I don’t know how well CD reissues sell. On a similar topic to show you how quick people can fade from the public eye (although SG does a better job of honoring its heroes than some other genres). Michael English didn’t have as long lasting career as some, but he was at the top of CCM for a short time (I know CCM is a different beast), but my pastor’s daughter is in her twenties and had no idea who Michael English was recently. I also realize that Michael’s career came to a sudden halt too. However, it does show how as time goes on only those REALLY into the music and history seems to think much about or buy recordings of a lot of past artists. Yes, SG is different, but it is a lot smaller to begin with and I think with mp3’s and many new artists that there may well be less of a demand for past artists although some with CD’s might buy mp3’s instead of ripping them themselves.

  10. AnnD wrote:

    It’s amazing what you can do with the right equipment now…how good the quality is from a record to CD using noise reduction “whatevertheyarecalled” :). All the Downings’ masters have been in all kinds of temperatures, but are still in fairly good shape. I’m grateful! ad

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