What is a Tree?
Well, your Mom may have told you that only God can make trees, but she was wrong. You can make them too! A Music Tree.
Basically, a tree is a way to quickly distribute and share music that might not otherwise be easily obtainable.
How does this work?
A very kind person decides they want to share music, and decides to seed a tree with some sort of music source. (Tape, CD, MiniDisc, DAT, Album, etc.)
The seed may or may not be the administrator of this tree. (Sometimes someone wants to share music but doesn't have the time or resources to be the administrator themselves...)
The administrator of the tree will send out an email to the group announcing the tree. Often in this announcement includes specific instructions on how to sign up for the tree and what information is needed.
This includes paying attention to any subject headings people request for the email response you will send, as many people set up email filters to keep all of their tree sign-ups in one place. Also important is the deadline for the tree. (If you miss the deadline, there is no guarantee you will be on the tree. However, if you miss the deadline, sometimes you can contact members of the tree directly to try to set up an off-tree trade.)
What does it mean when it asks do I want to be a branch or a leaf?
The seed of the tree starts the whole thing by offering to share music. This means the seed will make copies of the music and pass it on to other people.
Now, say 100 people sign up for this tree. Making 100 copies of music (especially if we're talking 2-CDs or 2 tapes for the source) can be a lot of work. So to make it easier to distribute the music, the seed only makes a set number of copies, which are sent out to the branches
Working with our theoretical 100-person tree, let's pretend there are 10 branches. This means the seed only has to make 10 copies now, instead of 100. This makes life a lot easier.
But what about those other 90 people?
Those other 90 people are leaves. They get copies made by the branches.
So a little diagram of the structure might look like this:
The leaves do not have to make any copies for anyone.
What are the responsibilities of the people involved?
Seed - provides the music to be distributed
Administrator - (stolen from Michael Witt) The success or failure of a tape tree relies heavily upon the person administering the tree. It's a lot of work! Administering a tree is an act of goodwill and administrators should be given the respect and understanding due to them. People who are interested in administering a tree need to secure a seed tape before posting an announcement. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to own high-quality decks to organize a tree; in fact, all you need to do is locate a seed and place yourself on the structure as a leaf.
Branch - it is the responsibility of the branch to contact the seed for a copy of the source. Branches arrange trades with the seed (either music-for-music or music-for-blanks and postage) to obtain this source. The branch is an important part of the tree, and you should volunteer only if you know you can meet your obligations. Branches also have obligations to their leaves. (See the "leaves" section below.)
Leaves - sometimes called "terminal leaves", are generally the end of the tree. It is the responsibility of the leaf to contact their branch to arrange a trade. It is not up to the branch to contact you! A leaf arranges a trade with the branch to obtain the source of music from the branch. (Again, usually music-for-music or music-for-blanks and postage)
And that's it!
So, to sort show some of the benefits.... (using our theoretical 100-person tree)
Our seed will get some sort of trade from each of its 10 branches for seeding the tree. More importantly, the seed gets really good karma.
The branches get some sort of trade from each of the 9 leaves for branching, plus good karma too.
The leaves get the source of music being treed.
How do people get the music to each-other?
First I want to note that the seed may not have a way to copy their source, and so they may send the source to the branches one at a time. (For instance, in the case of a CD or DAT tree, the seed may not have the equipment to make copies, or in the case of a tape or album, the seed may not have very good equipment.) This is especially important in tape trees, where circulating the seed tape to the individual branches gives the leaves a higher generation tape than if the seed made copies of the source and sent the copies to the branches. This may slow down a tree, but you'll still get your music. (Thank you, Gaby, for reminding me to mention this!)
Generally music is traded by post - traditional snail-mail.
If you are a leaf and can not make copies, it is not unheard of to mail your music to your branch, who will then copy the music and return to you your originals as well as the source of the music that started the tree. Who pays for what postage is up to the two of you.
Any more questions?
I hope I've covered the basics here in a quick and understandable way. If something's missing... ask someone who has been in a tree. Usually people are very good at helping out those who are new to trees.
Remember, everyone has a first tree experience. Just as you hoped someone would nicely explain things to you when you were new, there are new people out there hoping for nice explainations. Be kind.