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What’s the Value of 3 Million LPs in a Digital World?

by Elijah
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What’s the Value of 3 Million LPs in a Digital World?

You also miss out, George notes, on ephemera that might have accompanied a record, whether it’s that extensive 20-page booklet tucked into the front of a ’90s CD, or wry or interesting liner notes from some obscure African or punk LP.

Migrating digitized material can also be a problem, George says. While moving a huge box of records (or a warehouse of three million records) is certainly no small feat, that kind of physical material can be hard to ignore. If somewhere, say a university, starts a digitization program for someone’s paper or recorded work, they can end that work when the grant or money awarded runs out. At that point, George says, you have to worry not only about where that material is going, but also about how you might play it in the future.

Vinyl records will likely always be playable, but as technology companies come and go, access to many digital archives may seem uncertain. “We joke with the people at the Internet Archive about who’s going to last longer, and we’re all pretty sure it’s us,” George jokes. “If you have a bicycle wheel, a rubber band, a bundle of sewing needles and a cone of paper, you can always play an LPbut you can’t make a chip at home.”

Rodgers calls the ARC “an amazing thing to look at,” partly because of its size, but mainly because of the way the physical archive really rewards discovery. It’s one thing to plug a keyword into a search engine and find something you’ve targeted, but it’s another thing entirely to pull a record off the shelf based on a piece of art and discover your new favorite song .

Although the ARC focuses on material recorded after the release of 45s, the collection includes a significant number of 78s, in part because, as George puts it, “we are the dumpster fire of pop music.” As archivists have gone through the material in the collection piece by piece, they have made some interesting discoveries, whether it be tracking down long-lost Bert Sommer recordings for Ang Lee Taking Woodstock or realizing the reach of someone like Aileen Stanley, a house singer who has been credited with selling more records than Enrico Caruso, long considered the first million-selling artist. “She did better than Caruso,” George says, “and now no one knows who she is.”

“Things come and go, and there are a million reasons for that,” George continues. “All we can do is try to preserve them so that one day someone can come along and have the opportunity to build on what we once knew.”

The ARC has given itself until Valentine’s Day to come up with the additional resources needed for a new space. Although no one has come yet, the group has invited everyone from Quincy Jones Discogs. “There is interest, but no one has actually said yes,” says George. “We are still in limbo, and that is very difficult. If we can’t get the money in February, we’ll have to move and store everything. However, we are quite shocked that no one wants to put their name on a building to preserve the music. The more places music is safe, the better its chances of survival.”

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