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Why can't prior vinyl pressings be reissued again?

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  • Why can't prior vinyl pressings be reissued again?

    I've been trying to find some audiophile reissues of LPs that have been released in the last 15 years ago. Some examples are the James Taylor "Sweet Baby James" LP that was pressed at RTI in 2008 and mastered by Steve Hoffman/Kevin Gray. And another is the Speakers Corner release of the Johnny Hartman & John Coltrane album. These were wildly popular and am convinced many would buy them again if they did another pressing run. So if they were a huge success and harder to find now, why not do another pressing run?

    Are they only authorized to do a limited pressing run on a limited number of copies? If it is about garnering sales, why stop doing an audiophile run if it was wildly successful on a very popular album as those mentioned above? I know Analogue Productions will do a rerun once albums are sold out, will go on backorder, but will eventually get copies back in again. But why stop for other companies? I'm assuming the mastering tape reissue is still available where they could simply do a pressing again. Any experience with this?

  • #2
    If you haven't tried already, I would suggest writing to the companies that released the reissues to see whether they are planning on doing another pressing.

    I'm not an expert, but have a few insights from working with Winston Ma while writing my Decca book for him (First Impression Music).

    1. The companies holding the original license (and usually controlling the master tapes) normally demand an up front payment for the royalties for the album. There is a maximum number of copies associated with the royalty, so if that number is reached, a new agreement must be made, or there is something in the contract that allows for more copies to be made for an additional royalty.

    2. The company in turn has to obtain permission from the artist(s) involved, often that means the estates of the artists, and be responsible for paying the artists a share of the royalties. Many reissues have been stopped because the estates want more money or refuse permission.

    3. Ten or fifteen years is a very long time in the recording industry. This means that there is a high likelihood that the company and personnel that one dealt with for the initial license is no longer the same person or company. Sometimes the new company or person is very cooperative and understands the reissue business, but often not, and a long and often fruitless process of education and negotiation must be started. Then the process of a new agreement with the artists or estates commences.

    4. Hopefully, the reissue company has kept the running masters that they used for the first issue. If not, they have to get the original master tapes and redo what was necessary to produce the running master. That normally requires the services of a mastering engineer who will tweak the tape to get the best sound for the running master.

    5. The vinyl pressing business has changed a lot in the past decade or so. Many of the players are different (e.g. Chad Kassem of Acoustic Sound is now a major player in high quality pressings with his QRP business - that didn't exist a decade ago. My understanding is that many pressing companies have a significant backlog, which further complicates the reissue process.

    Larry

    Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0,Merrill Trident Master Tape Pre,Herron VTPH-2A
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    Electronics-Doshi Pre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
    Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
    Other-2x512Engineer/Marutani Symmetrical Power, AudioDiskVinylCleaner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects,
    Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.3KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

    Comment


    • Analog21
      Analog21 commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for the response. I knew it had to be one of your answers (or a combinations of them), but couldn't understand why an original copy is going for double or triple on the used market, why can't they just do another run of the pressing? If the demand is that high, you would think it would be worth while to issue it again.

    • MylesBAstor
      MylesBAstor commented
      Editing a comment
      Very good question Gary and I've wondered myself at times. One example was the MOFI reissue of the Beck Sea Change album. The license expired but I never received a good answer from MOFI why they wouldn't relicense the title? I doubt MOFI lost any money on the first run. Maybe MOFI thought they couldn't sell out a second run?

      But Bill and Larry also hinted at this and nowadays this may be the biggest issue: getting the master tape again. Labels are getting more and more reluctant to take their tapes out of the vaults. When they do, most labels will only send the tapes to certain mastering engineers. And as Rob mentioned in another thread, there was even questions whether masters are really being used at times.

  • #3
    Great reply may I ask this question
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    Comment


    • #4
      You have to break it down into its component parts:
      1. mechanical licenses for the musical compositions- not a big deal, normally issue as compulsory under US law for songs already released on prerecorded media. There is a standard rate per track/per copy. The issue is largely one of cost v. sales expectations.
      2. master license- getting access to the master tape is harder these days than it might have been 10 or 15 years ago. Hoffman did the DCC records quite a while ago. Many of the large companies, like Universal, prefer to provide a flat digital transfer rather than the tape. The cost of the license is not subject to compulsory (i.e. fixed by statute) rates in the U.S. so for some material, even assuming the tape exists and the owner of the master is willing to make it available, you have to factor in the cost of the master license.
      3. Using earlier mastering for reissue- I suppose some mastering notes may be available to try to achieve the same sonics as an earlier preferred mastering, but the metal parts used in the mastering process are consumables. Chances are, for most audiophile records remastered a while ago, those don't exist or are worn out.
      4. Market-- my take is that most of the better reissue houses don't really want to take much risk- that is, if they are going to the trouble to do a high quality vinyl remaster, bear the licensing and mastering costs, along with duplication of artwork, packaging, etc. -they want to be pretty confident that their investment will pay off in sales. Better to under-estimate the market rather than over-estimate it for that reason.
      5. Artist control- leaving aside situations where the artist owns the master rights, there are also instances where a high powered artist has some say in whether a reissue gets done. There are a million reasons why an artist may not be inclined to authorize a small reissue, even though it is preferable for sonic reasons, to await some larger retrospective of that artist's work.
      6.Other intangible factors: time consumed by negotiations and requisite licensing-lack of interest by the reissue house in doing a reissue of its own work, rather than moving on to something the reissue house is more interested in now. My suspicion is, though Chad is in business to make money (e.g. guaranteed sales of a past reissue if it still has a market), he is also about covering a lot of new ground in trying to reissue things he hasn't done in the past (leaving aside the perennial records that seem to get reissued/remastered every few years).

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