AES Section Meeting Reports

Boston - June 9, 2008

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AES Boston Annual Banquet
with Steve Albini

The AES Boston Annual banquet was held on June 9th at the Henderson House in Weston, Massachusetts. Members elected new officers for the executive board: Tony Schultz will serve as the new chair, J Franze as the new vice-chair, and Jonah Goska as the new secretary. Joel Goldberg will continue to serve as Treasurer. After handling other official business, the night featured notable recording engineer Steve Albini, who entertained the audience with his view on the industry's opportunities and challenges in addition to sharing personal strategies of his own successful career.

Delighted to be to speaking (joking that he would have come even if dinner was not included), Albini praised AES for being a sensible part of the industry. He compared AES to his experiences with NARAS, segueing to his issues with that organization. Mr. Albini was particularly critical of NARAS's decision to pursue legal action against the industry's consumers. He recalled that throughout the history of modern recording, the music industry had been aggressively campaigning for new bands' exposure to a large audience. Now that downloads have enabled the audience to discover new music and form those band/listener relationships better than ever before, Albini suggested that NARAS would rather shun this new advantage along with its consumers.

Mr. Albini then turned his attention to his own career. He credited his industry success to avoiding other people's advice. For example; he was advised to give up analog recording for the newer digital tape machines that have experienced many new updates and format changes over the years. Albini continues to record to 2" tape—one of the key attractions to his studio. He dismissed the notion that mastering to vinyl would be obsolete, noting that vinyl is still available today and has outlasted many of the formats that have attempted to replace it. Overall, Albini stressed that "the fundamentals never change" they are what had made him successful.

The evening proceeded with a wide-ranging Q&A session. An audience favorite for Albini was why he was so committed to analog recording. Albini said it was not due to sentimentality nor a superior sound quality (stating plainly that modern digital fidelity sounded as good) but rather the durability of the recordings. He challenged any one to bring him an analog recording from any point of history that he was unable to play, even if it took some restoration. He contended that this was not possible with digital, since digital recording technology was based on the trends of the computer industry. When the technology is unavailable or becomes incompatible, the digital session cannot be recovered. The computer industry has bigger demands than just recording technology, he said, so the constant turnover of necessary technology made recordings unplayable very quickly. When the audience speculated that digital could easily be converted to the next new format, Mr. Albini pointed out the financial and time strain for most studios, bands or companies to do such a thing. By the time the conversion of all the recordings in most tape libraries was complete, there would likely be a need to begin again to convert those files to the next technology.

Mr. Albini optimistically concluded that today is a great day to be in a band! There are more modes to expose your music than ever before and even more new ways to take advantage of that opportunity.

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AES - Audio Engineering Society