I rethought the budget and it's more like $25k per album if you pay a craftsman wage to the producer
and engineer. If you don't, you won't get craftsmen. Probably also more like $35-40k startup costs
because it will take several sessions to find the exact right recording chain and people need to get
It actually cost quite a bit more than this, in 1960 dollars, to do Mercury sessions. I've seen some
of the old budget sheets. That was back when you could expect to sell enough classical albums to
recoup costs within a few years, and if you hit on a success in the marketplace you could recoup
costs very quickly (mono and stereo "1812 Overture," both Gold Records several times over while in
I suspect that in situations today where government-paid orchestras are being recorded in Europe and
Asia, there is a government subsidy for the recording costs. It could be free musician labor (since
they are salaried employees of the government), maybe some tax subsidies, maybe even some upfront
recording cost subsidies, all probably in exchange for a royalty agreement (with little expectation
that the royalties will ever recoup the subsidy).
It's foolish to say that there aren't fans and listeners of classical music out there today. But the
simple fact, proven in the marketplace, is there is not enough money-spending, music-buying
customers to justify high-budget classical recording anymore except in very special circumstances (a
guaranteed-money diva singing a Christmas album, for instance, or another "3 Tenors" if such a thing
ever came along again). The only sort of music productions that can justfiy big budgets anymore are
pop-culture related (pop music, rap-pop music, country-pop music, rock-pop music). That's what the
droves with open wallets want to hear, it's simple market economics.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2014 7:35 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording technology
> It's like trying to rebuild Pennsylvania Station - one shot was all we had.
> Once it's gone, it's gone, though at least we can still experience the
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
> Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2014 8:17 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording technology
> Hi Carl:
> Per Paul Stamler's posting, I think you'd get enough "vintage" sound using
> the old mics and something akin to the Pultec preamps. I and most other
> modern audiences do not like things "over-tubey," which really should be
> stated as "over-ironed." Connect the vintage chain to a nice modern
> high-resolution rig and it should work. My goal would be to get the
> coherent, detailed, rock-solid stereo image of yore but with modern clarity
> and no distortion. With a cleaner signal path, mic placement choices may be
> slightly different -- same theories but the focal point of the presence peak
> may be a little different due to less dulling from harmonic distortion and
> tape smear.
> My big caveat about the modern chains is, I know how different they each
> sound vs. each other. There are all kinds of stuff that don't show up in the
> specs but make audible differences. I think the biggest design problem out
> there is not enough voltage swing on the analog stages, resulting in
> non-perfect handling of peaks and bass-heavy attacks. This is where you get
> the hit of mallet on tympani head but not the fast-rising boom. It's even
> worse for bass drums. Very few ADCs that I've heard do that well. There's
> also something that happens in the very upper midrange on some ADC's, and of
> course some loss of "air and space" no matter the sampling rate or bit depth
> (the best ADCs should have very little to almost no audible loss compared to
> monitoring directly off the mics).
> And, all the high-ends DACs I've heard sound slightly different from each
> other, comparing apples-to-apples files played back from the same computer.
> I suspect part of it is USB interface execution, descisions on up-sampling
> and reclocking, the low-pass filter design and the analog stage after
> conversion. So, just like when my mother started out on the CD project, it
> would take lots of listening and trying different equipment and signal
> Find a top-rate orchestra in a good acoustic space, get some serious funding
> to restore the vintage equipment (last I checked, Schoeps wants several
> thousand dollars per mic to factory-restore M201's, and they can't guarantee
> results since they have no original parts on hand; Steve Jackson at Pulse
> Techniques can make near-clones of the Pultec preamps for several thousand
> dollars per channel), gather up a whole bunch of digital gear to test, and
> we're ready to roll, just for the feasibility-testing stage though! I won't
> hold my breath. ;) Seriously, I thought about this at one point and came up
> with a $25k budget just to get started, just for gear and gear restoration
> (figure several multiples of that to pay a producer/editor, recording
> engineer and mastering engineer).
> Maybe 10-15 albums per year, at a cost of about $15k per album factoring in
> travel costs, and then add more for manufacturing of the end product (which
> is what? single CDs? they're supposedly toxic to profits in the classical
> business. SACDs? can't live on sales of a few thousand units. downloads?
> what format? how will you market them?), marketing, etc. There is no
> classical recording business plan except a crazy rich patron that works for
> that kind of craftsmanship today.
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2014 7:38 AM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Recording technology
>> "I've often wondered about applying the Mercury technique, including using
>> the real-deal Schoeps M201 microphones (they need restoration, but they're
>> still alive), with a modern high-resolution digital recording rig."
>> I'm ready when you are!
>> Would be a great experiment, but there are caveats. Recording systems are
>> systems; every part plays a role that needs to be complimentary to the
>> whole. Without the slight homogenization of tape, those treble peaks might
>> reveal themselves as rough terrain. Without the masking of noise, the
>> harmonic distortion may be grating. So much of recording, then as now, was
>> the overcoming of limitations, but different challenges for different
>> Some of the challenge today is to find the magic when the tools are so
>> perfect. This does happen, without any particular emulation of golden-era
>> techniques. It's not all the technology, either. ("It's the guy, not the
>> gear.") I tell performers that when they sound good, I sound good. Of
>> course, the opposite is true, too, but that has to remain unsaid!
>> Speaking of orchestras, so much of the culture is different now from 50
>> years ago, it's not simple to point a finger at any one aspect. Generally
>> speaking, the players and directors are primarily concerned with clean
>> execution. This is understandable when most concerts are under-rehearsed
>> the players often overworked with bazaar schedules - Bernstein one day,
>> Bruckner the next. Some of the finer points of sound and interpretation
>> neglected, particularly to my perception dynamics, which is something that
>> recordings really need in order to overcome the limited sensory info.
>> Personally, I can enjoy less than perfect ensembles of the second or third
>> rank. In the US, these are budgetary differences as much as anything. The
>> majors are so routinized in their virtuosity, it is refreshing to hear
>> others rise to a challenge. That's when music gets made, and even limited
>> recording technique is adequate to convey that difference.