Saturday, October 02, 2010

Music industry allowing its heritage to wane

A US government study has warned that the recorded music industry might be allowing its legacy to crumble into dust, Variety reports:

The 169-page white paper, subtitled "A National Legacy at Risk in the Digital Age," concludes that nothing less than congressional revision of copyright law will help alleviate the many issues facing overtaxed, underfunded, technologically inadequate institutions involved in preservation work.

The major sectors of showbiz are working to preserve iconic works (Variety, Aug. 2-8) and U.S. music labels have taken steps to ensure preservation of their catalogs, but, crucially, "It is uncertain whether master recordings are being maintained or preserved when there is no prospect for their reissue or for monetary gain from their digital distribution," according to the NRPB study.
Masters of bands that labels have concluded they can no longer make money of have been junked - don't even think about what might have happened if instead of destroying them, the labels had allowed artists to take back and do what they would with them. Don't think about what the majors might have consigned to destruction.

And are we better off now, now that everything is digital? Nope:
"Current programs to systematically preserve (digital) recordings are inadequate," says the NRPB.

Funding for preservation is "decentralized and inadequate," the study says. And the problem has only grown with the steep music-industry downturn of the last decade: The study notes, for instance, that the Grammy Foundation's preservation awards totaled $441,000 in 2008 and just $150,000 in 2009.

Analog-to-digital archiving is beyond the scope of most institutions. The study takes a dim view of recordable CDs as an archival medium, noting they have "placed preservation programs at great risk."
And one of the biggest threats to preserving recordings? It's copyright law. The study suggests that if people paid attention to copyright law, virtually all attempts to preserve audio recordings would be illegal.

That does sound like a broken law. Or it does, until the sound degrades to a point.