Where to go and what to do if you require multiple cassette copies of your recorded masterpieces.
Obtaining commercially-produced cassette copies of your recorded masterpieces can be a painless undertaking if simple procedures are followed. Christine Seaman and Denis Holland, who run Channel S Cassette Copying Services, proffer some advice on what to do, where to go and what you can get from the many cassette duplicating companies that serve the recording industry.
At some point a band, songwriter or home recordist may wish to have cassette copies made of their songs. These days record companies and publishers prefer cassette, but broadcast radio stations still prefer ¼" reel-to-reel tapes or disc (if your songs are to be played on the air), as the quality is that much better. There are three methods of cassette duplicating available, which are Loop-Bin, High Speed and Real Time.
Loop-Bin is a high speed form of duplicating where a 1" or ½" master tape is first made from your ¼" master tape. It is then put on a machine which runs at 32 or 64 times normal speed along with slave units which copy reels of cassette tape. The cassette tape is then fed into empty cassette shells; this method is used for producing anything from 500 to 100,000 copies and is mostly used by independent and major record companies.
A master cassette or ¼" reel is run at 8 or 16 times its normal speed along with slave cassette units. These slave units copy both sides simultaneously in stereo or mono and there can be one slave unit copying one cassette, or many slaves copying many cassettes at once. High Speed duplicating can cater for short runs (100+) to runs of thousands.
A ¼" reel or cassette master is played at normal speed (which could be 15ips or 7½ips for reels or 1⅞ips if it's a cassette). A bank of 5 to 50 cassette decks all run together to copy at normal speed. Generally, real time duplication caters mainly for runs of 10 to around 1000.
Most cassette duplicators can encode your cassettes with Dolby B and some can encode with Dolby C noise reduction. However, if you use a high speed duplicator and you want Dolby on your copies, then make sure your master cassette is recorded initially with Dolby on it. You should then be able to have the copies reproduced with Dolby. High Speed or Real Time duplicating are most likely to suit the home recordist, band, songwriter or small label.
This should be ¼" reel-to-reel running at 15ips or 7½ips stereo half track or quarter track. You can use cassette masters (from the studio), but they are not as good quality as reel-to-reel. Do remember also, that if your songs are not in the right running order, then a Duplicating Suite can re-edit the tape, but there may be an additional charge. If you choose the Loop-Bin or High Speed methods be prepared for a charge for making their copy master which is necessary for each of these processes.
When you telephone or go to see a Duplicator ask what tape he uses; for example Ferric, Chrome or Metal, and also, find out what brand it is. A named brand like Agfa, BASF, TDK or Maxell are all pretty much a safe bet. If he used a name you do not know, then listen to a copy, preferably of your master, and compare the quality with other tape brands. You may decide to use your own bought tapes instead of those supplied by the duplicators, in which case there will be a charge per hour to copy onto your own tape, which can be anywhere from £5.00 to £10.00 per hour plus VAT.
Some copiers can adjust the sound of the master tape, usually with a graphic equaliser or a small mixing desk. If you have used a recording studio to make your tapes, they should not need re-equalising, but if you have recorded at home it is possible your monitors are not accurate enough, therefore the sound could be different when played on a Copying Suite's high quality monitors.
Some cassette duplicating services will copy short runs of cassettes while you wait so check this with them if you want your copies in a hurry. However, if you require 100 to 1000 or more, you will have to leave the master and collect the tapes, usually between 5 to 10 days, depending on how busy they are. Most copying services will want a deposit on runs greater than 100 and this may vary from 25% to 50% of the total price. If you are intending to send your cassettes to record companies or publishers, it is best to copy your songs on to one side of the cassette only, as they can then listen to all your songs without turning the cassette over.
Some copiers will keep the master tape for you, so if you want more copies all you need do is telephone an order through and collect them when they are ready.
Bear in mind that cassette prices vary depending on the size and quantity you require. On completion of a run also remember to check a few cassettes before you take them away. However, cassettes cannot match reel-to-reel in quality so they will not sound quite the same as your master. Also, check you have the right number of tapes, library cases, labels and inlays. Some copiers will even make you a ¼" reel-to-reel copy master if you should require an extra one.
Presentation of your cassette is important, even if it is only simple clear labelling. You may decide to have your inlays and labels printed, in which case some cassette services can arrange the printing for you; this is a useful extra if you don't want the headache! The price will largely depend upon the type of artwork. If you use your own artwork it will be cheaper, but do make sure the artwork is prepared and ready in the correct format for the printer to make the plates.
For further effect you can often buy coloured cassette shells and library cases, but it will cost a few pence extra per cassette and library case.
If you send your master tape by post to a record company or publisher then remember to wrap it in aluminium foil to stop possible erasure by stray magnetic fields. Tapes can sometimes become erased on the underground system though tests have been made to disprove this. However, it is still best to wrap them in foil to be on the safe side. If you are dealing with a duplicating service by post, you should send off for a sample of your work copied on their tape first then if you are happy with the result, give the go-ahead for work to commence on the rest of the run.
Finally when you have received all your copies, what do you do with them? Well, you can send them to record companies, but there are always publishers waiting to hear new songs and new music. If you are a working band, then why not try to sell the tapes at your own gigs; it would be another way of introducing your music to the public.
Channel 5 Cassette Copying Service can be contacted on (Contact Details).