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Audio Music Grading Interview

A Peek Into the New World of Audio Media Grading and Encapsulation

Are there records in your collection that you love so much you might consider the possibility of never hearing them again? Such a concept is counterintuitive to a lover of music or sound. Records are made to be played, not hidden away like the dusty storage unit relics in the concluding scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark! However, I’m sure that by scanning the items on our shelves, there are a few things - perhaps more than a few - that are only there for nostalgic reasons: that copy of our first Beatles 45 that is now scratched and written on; maybe the hastily scribbled Nick Lowe autograph from the early 80s on an album jacket that’s seen much better days; or, perhaps when a special release hit the market, you had the foresight and clever collecting acumen to purchase a spare. You know, just in case.

Coins, comic books, and baseball cards have long inhabited the world of collectible grading and encapsulation, and - if Rob Martinez - from Audio Media Grading has his way so will all physical media associated with sound production. Rob has recently partnered with DJ Steve Aoki to create a process to grade and encapsulate all types of different sound media: vinyl, cassette, CD, and - yes - even 8-track.

The other collectibles mentioned above all feature items that can be extremely lucrative and - of course - their value is reliant upon the condition the thing is in. But who is the ultimate judge of that? For those who aren’t familiar with the collectible grading and encapsulation world, it’s summed up in this way: a customer has an item they believe is of some value, they pay to send that item to a company that will then ascribe a grade to the item, and then the item is encapsulated in some form of thick, nearly impenetrable acrylic holder which is suitable for display. This is done to ensure that the collectible inside retains that grade, so long as the thing stays locked securely within the case.

The point of physical sound media - of course - is that those items are capable of creating the sounds that music lovers live to hear (unlike coins and baseball cards which just look cool). However, records “look cool” too, and many album covers would warrant the encapsulation that a company like AMG might provide. But, listening to Rob Martinez explain it, this concept can be expanded to include master tapes, rare cassettes used in archival sets, or other “one of a kind” items that would benefit from being safely stored away in an aesthetically pleasing, permanent containment unit.

So, join Rob and I as we explore the pioneering work he’s doing in the sound media grading and encapsulation industry. It might cause you to pause the next time you are perusing your collection. You might ponder, “I know I’ll never get rid of this, but will I ever play it again?”


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