Digital Archives of Music Production

   Critically Endangered small

Digital materials created by musicians and fans as a by-product of performance or recording, not otherwise published or shared. The use of ‘archives’ in this context refers to music production data that is in an archive.

Digital Species: Sound and Vision

Trend in 2022:

No change No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend in 2023:

No change No Change

Previously: Critically Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is a priority.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve | Inevitability

It would require a major effort to prevent losses in this group, such as the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


Pre-production notes; demo recordings; photography; correspondence.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Fragile or obsolete media for offline content; service provider preservation capability for online content; dependence on proprietary formats or products; lack or loss of documentation; uncertainty over intellectual property rights; lack of version control; lack of policy or mandate.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Replication; clarity of intellectual property rights; preservation agency involved and capable of looking after content.

2023 Review

In 2019, this entry was created as a subset of a previous 2017 entry, ‘Digital Music Production and Sharing,’ which was split into to draw attention to the different challenges faced by the different forms. Although it overlaps with other entries, including ‘Pre-production TV and Movie materials,’ it is a separate entry to emphasize the value of the archival materials relating to the recording process over and above the recordings themselves.

The 2021 Jury agreed with the entry’s assigned risk classification with no noted changes towards increased or reduced risk. The 2022 Taskforce noted no change to the trend (they agreed these risks remain on the same basis as before).

The 2023 Council agreed with the Critically Endangered with the overall risks remaining on the same basis as before (no change to the trend), though they noted that action needed to be taken more imminently.

Additional Comments

For the imminence of action, it will all depend on the format of the records. Correspondence or photographs may be left for longer, but recordings will need closer attention, especially if it is a bespoke recording format.

This may be less of a digital preservation challenge and more of an archive or collecting challenge. This type of material in the past, like most 'unpublished' archives, has survived through luck and is largely out of a GLAM or institution’s control relying on individuals to assess and evaluate if what they have is of significance. When these types of things come to an institution, based on significance on a case-by-case basis, are these digital objects then considered 'worth' the effort to a) bring into the collection and b) care and preserve them? So yes, while Critically Endangered, these types of collections are enormous and quite often not things one would want to keep for the long term; however, sometimes there is the odd gem.

There is the recognized inevitable loss of existing data but reducing this loss would require major effort to fix in terms of identifying organizations who are preserving this content, and it is not clear that this is being done already.

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