Since we're mostly in agreement, I'll try keep my responses short.
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Karl Miller
Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2007 8:21 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mass Digitization
"Andes, Donald" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
***It's most likely that our Archeologist friends are better than we at
developing cost effective plans to achieve their goal, which may be
easier when justifying project costs against the collection of
"priceless" artifacts. It is also very possible that we're comparing
apples to oranges, as they most likely have very different funding
**Over the years I have reviewed many grant applications for audio
preservation projects. The content and methodology have ranged from well
considered to the absurd. The question really that comes to my mind is
the notion of cost effective. Grant funding is, by design, not
predicated on notions of "cost effective." Also, very few proposals I
have read, address questions of efficiency. It is my thinking that cost
effective means that it can pay for itself. I believe that the
copyrights in the US, and the very functionalism of libraries (free to
the public) prevent libraries and archives from realizing substantive
financial return for their efforts.
**I guess I don't see that we are comparing apple and oranges, unless we
choose to make such a differentiation. It seems to me that uncovering a
fragment of a clay pot, is not unlike reclaiming a bit of audio. Once
the "artifact" has been recovered, there is then the question of
cataloging it and its preservation.
The apples to oranges retort come from the fact that nothing you'll
uncover by digging in the ground comes with copyright, performance, and
estate issues. Also, most of what Archeoloigists are looking for have
wider appeal, since it connect dots in the greater fabric of our
existence. Uncovering a audio masterpiece may help us understand a
composers intent, or help resolve a dispute over chord progressions or
unresolved notes, but it's still a very niche area. Again scope comes
into play here.
***2) The under appreciation/underpaying of Library and Archiving staff:
The world today (more than ever) comes down to profitability. Since
libraries don't make profits, it falls in line that there not going to
be handling out high paying jobs working for a Library. High paying jobs
can easily be had in the Finance, Legal, and Medical worlds. This has
been true for years, but for librarians the cold hard facts haven't
sunken in. Do I believe they should be paid more, of course I do. But do
I think they ever will, not in my lifetime.
**I agree. I would also suggest that the available salaries for
libraries will continue to decline due to the decline in use statistics.
I believe it will be increasingly difficult for those charged with
making budget decisions to justify library budgets. However, one needs
to keep in mind that libraries and archives exist as "public utilities"
of a sort. They are funded as we fund our fire departments. They are
seen as serving a common good. Yet, indeed, as the funding of public
utilities is being more subject to funding predicated on use, (toll
roads being but one example) libraries are very likely to experience
even more substantive reductions in public funding.
**My thinking is that libraries seem to be trying to compete in areas
where they have already lost. Libraries are trying to counter the
defection to google and yahoo, by becoming movie theaters and snack
**On the other hand, I believe that libraries need to refocus their
remaining resources more to the preservation of our intellectual
history...being museums of a different sort.
Not to play the pessimist, but I find Libararies will be following
records stores to their demise, and I question what can be done, so late
in the game to change the inevitable.
Also, Police and Fire services can be seen as government protection
against liabilities. Libraries do not offer this function to the
government with it serves.
***The fact is that we have massive amounts of history from the 1900's
in every field. Are we missing important stuff, sure we are. But the
unfortunate fact is that not enough people care enough about what's
missing. And more so, not enough profitability can be had from
collecting what was lost, to make it a worthwhile endeavor.
**Indeed, that is my question, what can we realistically hope to
preserve. Also tied into that question is the criteria used to decide
what we should preserve. Who has those skills? What sort of training is
I believe we COULD preserve it all, however, we (the archival community)
need to start putting more time into large scale cohesive planning and
lobbying for funding to support it, instead of running around crying
that the sky is falling.
Just take a look at what Google books is doing. I'm not in 100%
agreement with the plan or it's direction, but think of the scale. Think
of what they set out to accomplish. Strange, how no one IN the community
thinks on this level.
***Think of it: That lost treasure of sound, that we thought the world
would never hear again. Suddenly found, in pristine condition....How
many downloads, CD's excetera could you possibly sell? Unless it the
Beatles or Elvis it's most likely a lot LESS than you would think.
**Having my own record company and having issued historic performances,
I have some practical experience. I can find no rationale for what sells
and what does not.
**I am often reminded of the interest in the music of Mahler. While
there were a few of the faithful around when he died...consider the
notion that since he was not given much credit as a composer when he
died, nobody preserved his manuscripts. We now have a market for Mahler.
It is difficult to second guess what product might find that "Tipping
point" and what might not. Thankfully, Mahler's music has been
preserved. How do you know there is a market for a product unless you
have the product and make it available?
Well that's what the business is all about. We do market research, sign
artists, and take chances. We don't sign everyone we could, and we don't
always sign artists that are profitable. Regardelss, it's highly
unlikely that any "found" audio will reap large sums of money;
especially in this market already inundated with catalog releases and
slipping CD sales.
***3) Metadata concerns:
Here's the white elephant in the room. Everyone wants to
preserve/transfer/digitize, but guess what??? If you don't have a
complete and correct metadata standard in place, you'll probably do more
harm then good. Once things are transferred, the value of storing the
original drops (to the non archivist) and people assume that they'll
never need to go back to it. That is until, we try to understand what
the heck the file is, since your metadata seems spotty, and possibly
**Again, I agree completely. While great work is being done in Music
Information Retrieval, as for the metadata, libraries are having a
rough time these days. I consider the aborted attempts to revise the
cataloging rules. I believe it is time for a complete overhaul of
cataloging (metadata preparation, description, and cataloging
methodology). It is my hope that some enterprising company will come up
with some highly efficient, less labor intensive, system for the
creation of metadata, one that is so inexpensive that libraries will be
forced into making changes.
**I believe it is irrational to expect libraries to do it on their own.
To abandon MARC voluntarily seems not only unlikely, but
irrational...there is too much money invested in the old methodology.
Like Google books, I'm sure those outside the industry will figure this
all out for us, whether the solution is fool proof or not. Regardless,
it will just verify that our industry is lost and behind the times, and
our dismal salaries are in line with what they should be.
****4) Formatting/Migration issues:
Yikes. This was hiding being the white elephant called metadata. And
again, unless you figure this out UP FRONT, why bother digitizing?
**I agree in part. While there are many valid points to be made to
reformat recordings on stable media, I am a firm believer in addressing
the media which is chemically unstable.
Obviously migrating to avoid permanemt loss is manditory, but digitizing
analog reels in stable condition without connecting all the dots seems
pointless to me, which is why I advocate against it.
****5) And finally to address your last statement:
I think the archiving world has it's blinders on, and needs to pull
back, rationalize a bit, and find it's place in the modern world of
business, technology, culture, and government. It's not effort or caring
that this industry lacks; it's scope, direction and rational.
**Again, I agree.
**I believe that the pressures from the private sector are forcing
libraries and archives to reconsider their place in society. I would
wager that many of us have plenty of good ideas as to how to
significantly increase library productivity and perhaps even provide
some cost recovery...and I am not taking about coffee bars...I wonder if
there is anything that can be done from within the profession, or if we
just need to sit back and wait for the changes to be forced from the
private sector. I guess I just don't see libraries and archives taking
the initiative to change...and sadly, I believe a great deal of our
history stands to be lost in the process of waiting.
**Sadly, I see libraries ignoring (I use the word ignore since such a
small percentage of ARL member's budgets is devoted to preservation)
what I see to be their greatest resource, their unique holdings.
**Yet, for me, the question remains, is there some way to significantly
realign priorities within libraries? It seems to me that the changes
need to come from outside the preservation profession. The question is,
what is the best marketing strategy and how do we go about mounting our
Marketing and PR are taken to be in opposition to public use and
non-profit, but the two can actually work had and hand quite nicely. The
problem goes back to re-identifying what libraries and archives are,
what they could be, and what they should be. When I was a kid, libraries
didn't have any direct competition beyond the local bookstore. But now
with Wal-Mart, Barnes and Noble, Blockbuster and Virgin Megastores
competing in BOTH the brick and motar AND online space it's no wonder
the public isn't flocking to libraries. I myself haven't found the need
to go in years.
**I used to wonder if part of the problem had to do with the way society
views the role of music. Our copyrights seem to deal with it as a
consumable. Yet I then consider how we have such things as a "Museum of
Broadcasting." We seem to place some value on consumables. But do we
place more value on "I Love Lucy" than we do on Perry Como...or
"Omnibus" versus some of the more esoteric bits of our musical heritage.
It would seem the answer is yes. Then the question comes to my mind,
will Lucy be as valued 100 years from now as say an Omnibus program
featuring Frank Lloyd Wright. I wonder...then, should the library and
archive world be more concerned with what is not economically viable and
leave that which has a potential for "cost recovery," to the private
We all have to remember that the populous doesn't even scratch the
surface beyond commercially availible music and film releases. I enjoy
genres of music that have never had commercial success in this country,
and most likely never will. I have literally thousands of records that
could vanish without anyone understanding their ramifications. But I
understand, I'm in a niche, of a niche, of a niche. These recordings
connect the dots for a few very low key genres but do not register on
the radar of the public scope.
Question: If we could look back in great detail on the times of any
ancient civilization, what would be more relivant: the tastes, and
likings of the masses (aka the Mozarts, Michalangelos, and
Shakespeares), or the concerns and pickings of the trivial ubergeeks
like ourselves (obsure no name, short lived, fringe artists)?
**Should an organization like EMI, donate (the objects and the rights)
whatever holdings it sees as having no revenue potential to the
non-profit, public sector?
EMI UK, does have a non-profit historic trust, and donates a wide
variety of older reordings and technologies to it. I am currently trying
to establish something here in the US along those lines, but cannot
discuss it any more than that.
Music from EMI
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