What is a Tape Tree and how does it work?

Somebody offers a tape(seed). Someone volunteers to be the administrator of the tree, and thus "run" it. If the administrator is not going to be the "root", it's a good idea to know who will be ahead of time, or find someone who is willing to be. After consultation with the seed, the administrator posts a message to the net soliciting applications to be on the tree. The first person(root) (maybe the offerer, maybe the administrator, maybe not) who actually gets the seed tape makes up to 5 copies and sends them out to 5 people (branches), each of those people make up to 5 copies and send them out to either other branches, or to leaves (who make no copies), etc., until everybody who signed up gets a copy. The person structuring the tree ("administrator") may or may not be the person who provides the original tape ("seed") or the person who makes the initial 5 copies ("root"). To get on, you send mail to the administrator following a posting. When on, you make up to 5 tapes for people below you (if you're a "branch"), or none (if you're a "leaf"). You send the person above you either other tapes in trade, or blanks if you can't trade. IMHO, if trading, each person pays postage one way. If sending blanks, you pay postage both ways.

For most current or recent shows, the seed usually provides a DAT tape, and therefore it's a good idea for the root to have DAT capabilities as well, thus enabling most people to get high quality, low-generation analogs.

There is no payment for this service, ever. Don't do business with anyone who wants payment for taping. Most heads are only too happy to make copies for anyone who asks.

Q: I don't have two decks (or a dual deck). Can I still be on the tape tree without making copies for other people?

A: If you cannot make copies for others you are considered a "leaf" on the tree, and will be assigned to a "branch" of the tree, that is, someone who can make copies.

Q: Does it matter if I have a dubbing cassette deck instead of two separate decks for making copies?

A: Many dubbing decks are cheap and do not do a good job on quality when making a copy of a tape, partly because the consumer companies don't think people will notice the difference...NOT. Deadheads are audiophiles. The reason you are on a tree is: 1) You REALLY want the shows and, 2) You want the best possible quality tape you can get for a free recording. There ARE dubbing decks out there that do a good job, but cost more and are usually worth it (both Sony and Denon make good high-end dubbing decks). If you have a dubbing deck, NEVER, repeat, NEVER use the high speed dub when you are making a copy for someone. Why? You will reduce the quality of the tape, for the person you are making it for and any copies they will make. Always make the best quality tapes you can with the equipment you have on hand.

When a tree is started the administrator will want to know what equipment you have (brand, type, number of heads, etc...). This information is needed so that when the administrator sets up the tree everyone gets the best possible recording they can get, no matter what type of equipment you may have.

Q: What should I set my recording levels at?

A: Recording levels are really a function of the deck and the type of tape being used. For instance, you can probably set the peaks at +5 dB for metal tapes, but at +3 dB for high bias tapes. The key here is to KNOW YOUR DECK. The suggestion is to try different tapes and choose the one that works best with your deck. My preference for recording tapes (depending on the source) are the new Maxell XLIIS tapes.

Q: If you miss the request cuttoff date for the tree, is there any way to get on the tree?

A: In general, no. You can try sending mail to somebody who's making fewer than 5 copies, and ask if he'll make you one. Often, the tree administrator will indicate people who've offered to make more copies than they've been assigned. You'll probably have better luck doing this if you offer to trade.

Q: When everybody trades tapes on the net, what is the customary way everybody does this?

A: Generally, by trade. You offer a tape to somebody and ask for a list of what you can get in return, and choose something. If you are going to be doing a lot of trading, you should get on the tapehead mailing list (send mail to tape-heads-request@fuggles.acc.virginia.edu and ask to be added to that list). Also common on the net is a posting requesting a tape of a particular show, and offering to trade from your collection of ### hours of tapes, or offering blanks if you cant make tapes. Probably a good idea to put GROVEL or REQUEST and the date in your subject heading if ya want a response. Additionally, Wayne Folsom now runs an informal Tape Server, whereby you send him a request for certain tapes/sets, and he posts the lists of wants to the net every week or so. If you would like to make a request and need more information, email him at wfolsom@bbn.com

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