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In The Studio: An Introduction To Archiving Music Recordings
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Defining “Industry Standard”

Media professionals depend on a lot of specialized technology and common practice, so there are a lot of niche standards organizations within the world for music, television, and film.

Nonetheless, all of them are producing media required to endure throughout copyright term, so archival standards are a universal consideration.

In the music world The Recording Academy (a.k.a. Grammy365) has a membership division called the Producers and Engineers Wing dedicated to forming, promoting, and tending to guidelines and recommendations specific to music recording.

The P and E Wing’s “Recommendation for Delivery of Recorded Music Projects” establishes a comprehensive protocol of music deliverables, “in the interest of all parties involved to make [master recordings] accessible for both the short term and the long term.”

In their own words, The Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and study of sound recordings, in all genres of music and speech, in all formats, and from all periods.”

To those nuanced ends their technical committee has developed and published their own document of recommendations for the ”Preservation of Archival Sound Recordings”.

Some other detailed resources include:

The U.S. Library of Congress digital preservation site

—The American Library Association overview of Metadata Standards and Guidelines Relevant To Digital Audio

Open Archive eXchange Format (AXF)

Who Has The Answers?

All of the resources listed above (and many others) have excellent, time-tested processes and specifications for durable archives. Some of them may conflict or be incomplete, but any move toward standardization within a working group is a good thing.

None of us can claim the sort of foresight necessary to devise an archival scheme free of threat from technological obsolescence, but standard practices allow us to hedge our bets together.

If we all carefully choose a small handful of archival technologies, we have the opportunity to have a coordinated approach to migration once those standardized choices (inevitably) begin to fail over time.

Rob Schlette is chief mastering engineer and owner of Anthem Mastering (anthemmastering.com) in St. Louis, MO, which provides trusted specialized mastering services to music clients across North America.

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