This page includes a small glossary with explanations by Alan Wilder himself.
After the studio master tape recording, the Acetate is the very first part of the record manufacturing process.
It is actually a piece of metal, covered in a layer of acetone (therefore causing it weigh more than a standard record). An engineer places a blank acetate on a cutting lathe which then carves a groove into the disc, based on the sound waves the cutter receives from the sound source attached to it (master tape). When finished, the acetate is then used to press up the more familiar vinyl records. This is achieved by first coating the acetate with a layer of metal. This "metal mother" is then removed from the acetate (both "A" and "B" sides), and placed on a vinyl stamper.
These two metal mothers are then placed on the top and bottom of the machine. A "puck" (lump of vinyl) is placed on the vinyl stamper, with paper labels on top and bottom sides. When the vinyl stamper is activated, the metal mothers come down on both sides of the puck, squeezing the vinyl out to the edges. And bingo, a pressed record.
Sometimes, acetates contain versions of songs that are not released. Also, for every record pressed, an acetate exists. An acetate label is usually the label of the manufacturer (not the record label, but the pressing plant used, like Sterling Sound, The Exchange, Bernie Grundman Mastering or Future Disc, for example). The label is usually either hand written, or is typed. They are rarely, if ever, professionally printed.
Almost every release manufactured has an identifying number. That is the catalog number. To identify whether the release is a record, cassette or CD, the record company will add a suffix to the main catalog number.
The U.K. MUTE releases tend to handle this in a fairly straight forward way which will become clear by studying the numbers.
Albums are generally "STUMM"s, singles are "MUTE"s. So for example - the catalogue number for RECOIL's UNSOUND METHODS release is "Stumm 159", and then prefixes are applied ("CD" for compact disc, "C" is cassette, "12" for twelve inch vinyl, etc). So, the MUTE compact disc of UNSOUND METHODS would be "CD Stumm 159".
("CD-R", "CD-Recordable", "Recordable CD Promo" or "Reference CD")
A CD-R is the modern day equivalent of vinyl test pressing. Around the early '90s, record companies started creating a small number of a release (single or album) on recordable CDs.
These promotional items are usually burned in extremely low numbers (25-50), and are created for the following reasons:
- A test disc for the artist, management, or producer.
- A small "servicing" to radio stations
- In-house use by the record label employees.
They don't usually quote a catalog number, and due to common CD recording equipment, they are subject to being bootlegged.
PROMOTIONAL ONLY PRESSINGS
A "promo" release is a record solely designated to be sent to radio stations or similar.
They often contain special edits for radio or club use, have a catalog number specific to its release (usually with a "P" somewhere in it, like "P12MUTExxx"), and they sometimes contain mixes which are not commercially available.
They are nearly always pressed in limited numbers and as such, are very collectable.
On a vinyl pressing, in the run off groove (the area near the label), mastering engineers will carve into the acetate (or "scribe") the catalog number of that particular release.
This is done to identify the acetate, and will usually contain a long series of numbers (the main catalog number, as well as additional numbers and letters to signify A & B sides).
Look out for little hidden messages scratched in the run off groove area. This was a tradition, and phrases would be etched, at the band's instruction, by UK cutting engineers.
TEST PRESSING (or White Label)
After an Acetate is manufactured, the very first records pressed from the vinyl stamper are known as "test pressings" (TPs).
There are usually only between 5 and 10 ever made. These then often sent to the record label and/or directly to the producer to approve the pressing quality. Quite often they are rejected and a further set might be manufactured after a second "cut". Occasionally test pressings are used in the actual promotion of a record - this happens when a record is really hot or is being rush released. Usually though, TPs are just that...tests.
Most are disposed of after being pressed, therefore they are extremely rare. Just like acetates, there is a test pressing for every record ever released (commercial, and promotional versions). And just like acetates, the label is usually that of the pressing plant.