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Treeing Tapes on Rust

by Randy Schechter (wd51rs@sgi45.wwb.noaa.gov)
and David Lybrand (reactor@HyperRust.org)


Before starting, you'll probably want to see what Neil has said about taping.

Now, what you will find below are our views of things --- not everyone will agree 100% with what we say here and no one is obligated to follow these conventions. Some trees on Rust may not adhere strictly to this --- this is only a guide, NOT an edict.


Before we begin, let's first look at one person's definition of what Tape Trees are:

Tape trees are a little-known deciduous variety in the nightshade family. Various species have been cultivated around the world for years, providing people with the essential tapes for all aspects of their lives. In scotland, for example, farmers have bred tape trees to produce the familiar Scotch Tape with the Transparent, Wide, and 2-Side species.

Duck hunters in the American midwest are of course quite familiar with the Duck Tape tree (though for some reason they often mis-spell it as Duct Tape). They harvest the fruits of this fine spreading tree, open them with a hunting knife, and spread it on the ground beneath the tree. Unsuspecting ducks are attracted to the gray strips, and look closely at them to see if there are any bugs stuck to it (as they might find on a Fly Paper Bush). The tape sticks to the poor ducks' eyes, and they stagger in circles around the tree until the hunters dispatch the feathered creatures in the well-known "Duck Blind" ceremony.

As far afield as Papua New Guinea, tape trees have supplied other ceremonial materials. Who, for instance, can forget the riveting spectacle of cannibal tribesmen covering their faces with "Masking Tape" in last year's National Geographic special?

Musicians often carry an amulet containing the rare "Audition Tape" that can be found only on Albino Climbing Casette Tape vines. Despite the lack of any evidence of this helping, many aspiring musicians will refuse to leave home without it.

Farmer Max Points, in Dead Hollow, Michigan is of course credited with the discovery of the Audio Tape tree, which emits a pleasing snapping and hissing sound when the tape is peeled from the fruits of this noble plant. Even today people seek out Farmer Points, and can often be heard to cry, "What happened to Max Points?" when travelling through that fine state.

Getting on a tape tree is not as easy as it might seem, but getting off of one is nearly impossible; powerful sap makes each branch a death trap, and in the tape tree jungles of Brazil one can find the mummified remains of many a budding "taper", as the tapefruit harvesters are known in the local lingo.

Tape trading seems to be a harmless activity, and no home in America is lacking at least a few varieties of the common Scotch varieties. Clubs exist to discuss and exchange tape samples, and one can often find such interesting varieties as "Police Line, Do Not Cross" tape at their events.

So next time you "tape up" a centerfold from that swedish art magazine, pause a mome1nt and reflect on how that little tree affects so many aspects of your life. I know I will.

Well, maybe that's NOT what we're talking about. So let's get back on track...


First a little propaganda as to our motivation for running trees...

First and foremost it is to share with others quality Neil Young music that we have been lucky enough to obtain. I (Randy) have a rather large tape collection (mostly Grateful Dead) but we remember being beginner collectors.

Trees also serve the purpose of helping new tape collectors to get their collections going. People who are new to tape collecting (or to Neil Young's music) are welcome and encouraged to sign up for the tape trees.

Another of our motivations for running trees is to try to discourage people from feeling the need to partake of the large commerical bootleg market out there. We won't go into a long tirade against commerical bootlegs here. Let's just say that we personally view commercial bootleg producers to be disrespectful of an artists rights by cashing in on the artist's music without any consideration for the artist.

The Tree Seed

The first step in the tree process is finding the seed tape. A seed tape is the tape that will ultimately be used to make everyone's copy. These days recording equipment has gotten so small that almost every show gets taped one way or another. So it's important to seek out a tape worthy to seed the tree.

The qualities that are important for a seed tape (aside from the obvious requirement that someone volunteers their copy to be a seed) is that the sound quality be very good to excellent. The sound quality for tapes degrades with each generation as hiss is introduced in the copying process (this is only true for analog tapes --- DAT tapes do not suffer from that kind of degradation). So if we start off with a poor sounding seed tape, the leaf tapes (see below) will be unlistenable.

The standards one uses to decide if a seed tape is "tree worthy" are subjective. They might therefore be subjectively lowered if the seed is from an older show, or a show where no other copy exists --- especially if the particular show includes a "rarity" of some kind (for example, an acoustic version of Southern Man).

Branches and Leaves

Once the seed is in hand, the next step is to select the branch leaders. The branch leaders are the folks who volunteer to spin 6-10 copys of the show for the "leaves", as in this inverted tree structure:

                           Seed Tape
     +----------+----------+--+--------------- - - - ---+
     |          |          |           |                |
  Branch 1   Branch 2   Branch 3    Branch 4         Branch "n"
     |          |          |           |                |
              +---------+---- - - --+
              |         |           |
            Leaf 1    Leaf 2      Leaf "n"
The number of branches can be very large on a tree for a long-awaited show (such as the Neil & Pearl Jam show at the Polo Grounds), so the tree leader always has the biggest "workload" by far. On Rust, a tree generally runs anywhere from 20 to 30 branches.

Also depending on the size of the tree, the number of leaves on a branch can run anywhere from 5 to 10. So branch leaders must be prepared to handle dealing with that many leaves.

Branch Leader Selection

It would be nice if a tree only required the tree administator to make branch copies and the branch leaders make the leaf copies. However in practice there's more to it, since the tree administrator has to select the branch leaders.

The criteria for branch leader selection is most heavily dependent on the quality of the dubbing equipment. In the best of worlds, all branch leaders would have two top of the line single decks (as opposed to dubbing decks) with 3 heads in the tape transports. This would ensure the best copies for everyone. In practice this is not likely, since most of us are not wealthy. Thus the tree administrator tries to ensure that the branch leaders have at least fairly good recording equipment.

Another factor for branch leader selection that sometimes is used is to consider the track record of the branch volunteer in previous trees/trades. Ideally, again, we choose people who take the responsibility of being a branch leader seriously over those who have repeatedly caused delays.

In the old days the practice was to find the seed, spin the branch tapes, open up the tree to everyone for sign-up, and THEN select the branch leaders from the general sign-up population. This practice may still be used by some tree administrators.

More often these days, there is a separate call for branch leader volunteers BEFORE the tree is opened up for leaf sign-up. This makes the administration a bit easier, and in some cases gives the branch leaders a little breathing room because they can get their copies before the full tree structure gets posted. In theory, this lets them start spinning the leaves' tapes ahead of time.

Distributing Branch Tapes

Once the branch leaders are chosen, the tree administator makes arrangements to send the branch tapes to the branch leaders. This can be accomplised by either arranging a tape trade for the branch tapes, sending blanks-plus-return-postage, or in some cases just sending cash for the price of the blank tapes and postage.

Please remember the return postage! It seems more and more people forget this little detail...

the practice of sending "double blanks" for tree tapes!
You should be willing to make your fellow Rusties a copy of the show for just the blanks it would take to make the copy, plus return postage. Not everyone agrees with this practice but it is true for all trees "sanctioned" by the Rust List.

Gathering Leaves

Okay, so now the branch leaders have their tapes. The next step is to open the tree for general sign-up. Trees are run in a spirit of International Cooperation, so we generally have branchs in Canada, Europe, Australia and occasionally Japan. The branch leaders from each nation take care of the leaves from their particular regions, where possible, to simplify mailing and currency transactions (where necessary). However sometimes there will be a Rusty from another nation on a branch. The tree administrator should get the okay from the branch leader before assigning such leaves to them, though.

The tree is generally open for sign-up for 1-2 weeks. After the sign-up is closed, the tree structure is designed and then posted to Rust.

The Branch - Leaf Connection

Note: Leaves are responsible for contacting their branch leader to arrange to get their tapes!

If you, the leaf, have something to trade for your tape(s) by all means set up a trade. If you have nothing to trade, just send blanks and return postage. After all, one of the motives for running trees is to help beginners get started. Note that it's not cool to trade for blanks just to save yourself some trouble. If you've got trade material, take the effort to make a trade with the branch leader - after all, that branch leader's got a lot more work to do than you do, so help to make him or her happy (so that they will do it again and again and keep the trees going!)

Branch leaders and leaves should arrange recording criteria (i.e. Dolby) amongst themselves. Sometimes the tree administrator will arrange to have certain branches that are "Dolby only" or "No-Dolby only". But generally the Branch leader gets a No-Dolby tape unless special arrangements are made. Depending on the branch leader's recording equipment, they may not be able to dub a tape different than their own. So if you insist on having Dolby, it's probably a good idea to tell the tree administrator at sign-up time.

A Note About Dolby: The Dolby circuitry varies from machine to machine, so there's a chance that you're not damping out exactly what was boosted on the recording deck. We'll leave the Dolby debate for elsewhere, but branch leaders should be willing and able to accomodate their leaves if possible.

Also see Cherry's guidelines for trading tapes on Rust.

Distributing Leaf Tapes

If you have set up a trade with your branch leader, this part is easy. Just mail your trade tape (or whatever you're trading) to the branch leader and then they will mail you the tree tape. Mission accomplished.

If you must trade for blanks, send the blank tapes in a padded envelope (suitable for sending your tape back to you) and enough postage to cover the cost of mailing the tape back to you. That's generally about $1.00-$1.25 for a single tape (in the US).

Please include your name, address, and email address with any blank tape you send, along with a note specifying what tree the blank tape is for. Since tree administrators and branch leaders have several trees/trades going on at once, this is very important!

Pet Peeves

  1. Branch leaders who don't take their responsibilities seriously.

    Don't volunteer to be a branch leader if you're not going to have the time to make the copies you VOLUNTEERED for.

  2. Leaves that disappear.

    Please don't sign up for the tree if you're not serious about wanting a copy.

    Sure, legitimate reasons arise that can cause you to be unable to fulfill your committments. Shit happens. Our peeve is with the basically unreliable people (the same ones whose dogs always ate their homework while they were in public school).

  3. Lack of feedback from leaves.

    If you have trouble arranging to get your tapes from your branch leader, or if you think your copy sounds like crap, please inform the tree administrator. If we don't know there is a problem, we can't help resolve it.

    On the other hand, please make a good faith effort to resolve your difficulties with your branch leader. Keep in mind that in all likelihood the branch leaders and tree administrators have a life outside of Rust. (Beleive it!)

  4. Lack of Return Postage when trading blanks.

    Lots of folks forget this!


  1. If you know you are going to be away in the next few weeks after tree sign-up, (e.g., for Spring Break, vacation, etc.) please let your branch leader (or your leaves, if YOU are a branch leader) know. If necessary, let the tree administrator know. This will keep us from going crazy looking for people. Inevitably some people just up and disappear after they sign up for a tree. Hopefully this doesn't happen for too many people.

  2. Leaves are responsible for contacting their branch leader to arrange to get their tapes! We can't repeat this enough...!

Final Words

Any deviations from the above MUST BE CLEARED WITH THE PERSON YOU ARE DEALING WITH. Many tree administrators are very fussy about deviations from this rule!

Suggestions, corrections, etc. are welcome!

Thats it!

Postscript From Randy

Implicit in all this (for any tree I'm involved in anyhow) is that you will not sell these tapes to anyone --- these tapes are for trading purpose only! If I ever learn that any tapes I tree have found their way into the commercial bootleg market that will end my involvement with tape trees --- it's strictly an ethical question for me.

. . . .Randy

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