Brief Tape Tree Primer v1.0
Michael Witt (mwitt@opie.bgsu.edu)

This is an introduction for readers of rec.music.artists.bruce-hornsby to common tape distribution methods. This specifically applies to our newsgroup and my distributions, however the ideas are borrowed from years of experience with groups like the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and Phish.


The most common form of tape distribution is the tape tree, and
its name implies how it works. The master recording from which the first
generation tapes will be copied is called the SEED. People will apply to a
tape tree and volunteer to make a set number of copies. Anyone making a copy
for another person is called a BRANCH. The person who is receiving this
copy is appropriately called a LEAF. The terms PARENT and CHILD are also
often used to describe these roles. The last level of people to receive
tapes do not make copies for anyone else, so they are called TERMINAL LEAVES.
When you fill out the application to be on the tree, the quality of your
equipment and your willingness to make copies will determine the role the
administrator gives you. Not everyone has great recording equipment, and it
isn't considered a sin to sign up as a terminal leaf.


There are two recording realms involved in most tape trees: ANALOG
and DIGITAL. People using cassette decks belong to the ANALOG realm, and
almost all DIGITAL duplicating is being done by DIGITAL AUDIO TAPE, or DAT.
There is too much to know about each area to get into for the purpose of this
file, so only the more important concepts and rules will be covered.
People using cassette decks should be very familar with their
equipment. A good indicator of the quality of your deck is how much you paid
for it. If you don't have good equipment or don't fully understand how to
make quality copies, do not sign up to be a branch! A few common rules for
analog dubbing:

1. Always use high-bias or metal tapes, the Maxell XL-II series is by far the most popular on the Internet.
2. Most dual-cassette decks aren't very good. If you do have a good dual-deck, never use the high-speed dubbing function.
3. Understand how to set your recording levels. Most traders like peaks to be in the neighborhood of +3 dB, although sustained passages may distort. Know how to read your recording level (peak meters and VU) and anticipate sudden peaks by leaving a reasonable amount of headroom.
4. Regularly clean and demagnetize your heads.
5. Make a tape for your leaf of the quality that you would like to receive and listen to. Avoid harsh cuts with fades, and insert filler in the leftover space. Do not use noise reduction or special filters unless they are specifically asked for by ALL the people under you.
6. Unless your deck has three heads, make a portion of the tape as a trial and replay it to read the peaks.

This is only a very brief explanation, the key here is to know your own equipment and how it behaves. When you sign up for a tree as a cassette user, you will be asked for your Dolby preference. This can include Dolby B, C, HxPro, or sometimes people with Nakamichi decks prefer to be grouped together. If you sign up to be a branch, your deck should be capable of maintaining the Dolby or Nak status to pass onto your leaves.

The seed for a tape tree is usually a DAT, and the highest levels of the tree should always be DAT branches. Because digital audio allows a recording to be exactly cloned without generational distortion, it is the highest quality method to spread the tapes. Not everyone can afford DAT though, so analog tapes are categorized by their generations from a DAT. The cassette user directly below a DAT branch on the tree will receive 1st gen tapes, and his leaves will receive 2nd gen cassettes, and so on.

DAT is not without complications. Serial Copyright Management System, or SCMS, is a subcode written to the DAT which won't allow it to be digitally cloned further than one generation from the master. SCMS affects all consumer decks, however SCMS resetting devices (like the DSD) and professional decks can get around this obstacle. Quickly, the commonly accepted SCMS subcodes are:
11 = Master (can be copied)
10 = Terminal (1st gen, can't be copied)
00 = Infinite copies possible with most decks


The larger the tape tree, the more complicated the process will be. Because I will be adminstering and providing seeds for most of the tape trees, this file and its updates will be the standard for my distributions. You must understand that hundreds of people will be wanting this recording, and that the administrator is going to be a busy person. Do not bother them unecessarily, although most admins (myself included) value the feedback and encouragement of the applicants.
The process begins with a tape tree ANNOUNCEMENT, and in this announcement will be an application and instructions. The better you follow the directions, the easier it is to administer the tree. Do not include the entire message in your reply, take the time to cut-and-paste the application area to your response. A generic application is often accepted, important information should be concise and easy to read. The subject line of your reply must include the title of the tape tree, your role, and your dolby preference if you have one. Here is a sample:

================ Email this to: mwitt@opie.bgsu.edu with one of the following subjects:
11/24/93 Hornsby Tree D>D
11/24/93 Hornsby Tree D>A
11/24/93 Hornsby Tree D
11/24/93 Hornsby Tree A>A (Dolby/B/C/HxPro/NO DOLBY)
11/24/93 Hornsby Tree A (Dolby/B/C/HxPro/NO DOLBY)
Email Address:
Street Address:
If you are a branch, how many copies can you make:

If I wanted to be on this tree, I would reply with:

To: IN%"mwitt@opie.bgsu.edu"
Subject: 11/24/93 Hornsby Tree D>D

Name: Michael Witt
Email Address: mwitt@bgnet.bgsu.edu
Street Address: 6605 County Road 11
City/ZIP: Risingsun, OH, 43457
Phone: (419) 457-3492
Equipment: Denon DTR-80P portable DAT -> DSD -> Sony DTC1000 DAT
If you are a branch, how many copies can you make: 5
Comments: Mike, you are sincerely the coolest guy I know! Thanks!


It is important to notice the deadline and look for any special instructions. Included with the annoucement will usually be the source of the master tape, a setlist and review, and the personal comments from the administrator. If you sign up to be a branch you must be willing to accept personal responsibility for your obligation. Obviously there are things in life more important than tapes, but you must realize that you affect people further down the line. You shouldn't be a branch if you might lose your email account or move. The more DAT-> Analog branches make for a higher quality distribution, but there are only a limited number of willing people available.


A reasonable amount of time after the deadline, the applications will be edited into a tree structure. In print, the structure looks much like a family tree, with leaves placed directly below their parents. Dobly preferences will be matched, and children assume the same qualities as their parents. An example:


Keith would get his DAT from Mwitt; Miles would get his DAT from Mwitt, Monk would get his DAT from Miles; Wayne would get his cassettes from Monk, Leon would get his cassettes from Wayne; Elton would get his cassettes from Wayne; Armstrong would get his 1st generation cassettes from Monk; Neednt and Dylan would get their DATs from Miles; they'd all get together to jam and Mwitt would tape the session!
Often times the DIGITAL and ANALOG sections will be so large that they will be listed seperately. In this case, the D>A people will need to check the DIGITAL structure for their parents and the ANALOG structure for their children.


It can't be emphasized enough that you should know your equipment. Beyond that, the key issue is speed. Every branch should be able to spin one set of tapes a day; and they should fufill their obligation in no later than 4 days from receiving their copy. These things move like dinosaurs; it takes weeks & weeks after the posting of the structure. If something comes up and you can't do your duty, immediately inform the administrator.
There are two ways to move the tapes between branches and leaves: TRADING or BLANKS. If trading, you should not let the trade affect your obligation. Some people make new contacts and like to bulk up their trade to maximize postage; just don't let this slow down your portion of the tree! Make sure that you agree upon the brand of tape, Dolby preference, and shipping terms before mailing anything. The other option is for the child to send the parent blanks and return postage. If you're doing this, make it as easy as possible for your parent. Postage-paid, pre-addressed mailers mean that the parent doesn't have to make a special trip to the post office or waste another envelope, and you'll get your tapes back more quickly.


The success or failure of a tape tree relies heavily upon the person administering the tree. It's a lot of work! Administering a tree is an act of goodwill and adminstrators should be given the respect and understanding due to them. People who are interested in administering a tree need to secure a seed tape before posting an announcement. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to own high-quality decks to organize a tree; in fact, all you need to do is locate a seed and place yourself on the structure as a leaf. I have DAT recordings in my personal collection that are readily available for people willing to administer tape trees. While you receive the gratitude of the newgroup and improve the net.karma, you also become subject to its scrutiny. You need to be a responsible person and meet the obligations you set for yourself in a timely fashion, or people will promptly cut you down to size.
It's a rewarding experience that I highly recommend.


These trees take a long, long time to fruit, and people who are anxious to hear the material can be impatient. Certain people are irresponsible or have special circumstances which arise that prohibit them from doing their duty. People move and lose email access, students go on vacation, etc. This is NOT a perfect method for distributing tapes, but with a reasonable amount of damage-control it is the most effective.
The most important thing to realize is the philosophy behind the Internet, newsgroups, and taping circles. There are unwritten rules and etiquette which can only be learned through experience. Be sincere and respect our ethics. These artists allow taping at their concerts because they believe and trust in the spirit of what we are doing. These distributions are strictly NON-PROFIT; many times I can offer high-quality digital source material, and it would break my heart to see my efforts plastered onto a bootleg compact disc. The relationships you make and the actions you take affect the overall karma of our group.


Another alternative explored by smaller groups of people and more established traders is the tape vine. In a vine, one or more "seed" tapes are made and circulated in sequence. For instance, if Tom, Dick, and Harry signed up for a tape vine, the administrator would mail a seed tape to Tom who would copy it for himself within three days and ship it on to Dick. Dick would receive the seed, copy it, and send it to Harry. Because Harry is the last person on the vine, he would have provided the original blank tape to the administrator.
The advantages to this are obvious: everyone gets a second generation copy which they get to make on their own equipment. Each person pays for postage once, including the last person who mailed the original blank to the admin. The major disadvantage is that you have to trust that nobody in the group is going to get the seed tape and then boogie, leaving the rest of the vine to collapse. It has been suggested that the original cassette for the seed is a high-quality, rugged, metal tape and that a checklist & labels with everyone's name in sequence be included in the package. Several vines of the same recording have been run at the same time and called a TAPE BUSH. It also helps to change the envelope after every 3-4 mailings, but your mileage may vary.


This file isn't exhustive; please forward suggestions and corrections to me at mwitt@opie.bgsu.edu, and please abide by this primer for all of my tape distributions. Updated versions will be posted to the newsgroup and possibly stored at an ftp site.

Michael Witt mwitt@opie.bgsu.edu BACK

Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!