Digital Recordings Published via Cloud-based Music Sharing Platforms


 Vulnerable small

Music licensed and playable through corporate platforms protected by rights management and subscription revenues and presented as compressed single-track recordings.

Digital Species: Sound and Vision, Cloud

Trend in 2022:

No change No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend in 2023:

No change No Change

Previously: 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

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


Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp, SoundCloud.

‘Crtically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of preservation capability within corporate systems; conflating backup with preservation; loss of original multitrack recordings; lack of preservation voice at executive level; poor planning and roadmap for corporate infrastructure; slapdash procurement or migration to new systems; mergers and acquisitions; profusion of corporate systems; complex intellectual property rights; single point of failure; technical protection measures that inhibit preservation actions; encryption.

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Strong backup and documentation; use of open formats and open source software; data management planning for preservation; licensing that enables preservation; corporate preservation capability; resilient to hacking; authenticity and integrity managed; recognition of preservation functions at executive level; technology watch; regular preservation audits; accreditation and participation in the professional preservation community.

2023 Review

This entry was previously under the 2017 ‘Digital Music Production and Sharing,’ split by the 2019 Jury into four subsets, recognizing the different challenges faced. This entry is particularly concerned with the music industry at scale and the services that connect the vast majority of artists to their audiences. These are typically large and well-funded, and typically recognize the value of the content they publish. But this is not without risks. It is perhaps surprising that the music industry does not yet have any equivalent to the non-print legal deposit regime that applies to other types of publication, including sheet music in some jurisdictions.

The 2021 Jury noted a large amount of vulnerable material on user-driven platforms where material can be very ephemeral (removals resulting from, e.g., account deletion, space limitations, copyright claims) and the issue of licensing with the instability of the business model. For this reason, the scope was widened to include ad hoc sharing so that this entry broadly includes all platforms such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp, which are more community-driven, as well as Spotify, resulting in a raised classification and 2021 trend towards greater 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 Endangered classification with the overall risks remaining on the same basis as before (no change to the trend) but with noted an increase in the imminence of action.

Additional Comments

The preservation of recorded music is one of our generation’s most important jobs, but it is unclear where responsibility lies. There are commercial incentives to do so, but also incentives to reduce costs. Whilst public archives are permitted to keep this material in some jurisdictions, they typically do not have the resources to do so. Consequently, there is an expectation that rights holders will maintain their own archival copies but may not do so. National collecting organizations may need to develop a role to address this.

If managed well, there is hope. It may not be an issue in the cases where the production company would hold original recordings and, if a streaming service lost a track (e.g., Spotify), they would go to the production company and ask for a copy. However, it is an issue for those outside of production companies and platforms such as SoundCloud and Bandcamp, which are more community-driven.

Scroll to top