Endangered large

Master recordings of music and other performance from which retail products are derived, typically in multiple tracks and uncompressed high-resolution sound quality

Group: Sound and Vision

Trend in 2021:

Unanimous  Decision

Added to List: 2019

No Change

Previous classification: Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within one year.

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 small effort to address losses in this group, requiring the application of proven preservation tools or techniques.


Master recordings owned by music industry

‘Critically Endangered’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Single point of failure; storage on old or degrading media; lack of ongoing investment in changing preservation requirements; lack of capability; poor documentation; dependence on small staff

‘Vulnerable’ in the Presence of Good Practice

High quality storage; meticulous and consistent replication; trusted repository; preservation requirement understood at executive level and funded accordingly; leadership in preservation community; expert staff

2021 Review

In 2019, this entry was created a subset of a previous 2017 entry, ‘Digital Music Production and Sharing,’ which was split to draw attention to the different challenges faced by the different forms. Though it has overlaps with other entries including Digital Archives of music production, it is a separate entry to emphasise the inherent and very great value of master recordings over and above those distributed, and the concomitant need for active preservation.

Additional Jury Comments

The imminence of action will depend on format and age, and the significance of loss may be more largely felt if recordings of a major recording star

This is interesting as the recording houses should be seeing the value of these - so why are they not taking responsibility for looking after them? Do they not feel it is in their financial interests? The archival practices of the studios are typically based on value - the recordings are assumed to be worth keeping. However, this means relatively low-value masters may not be transferred to new media in a timely way and could be lost. There is no comprehensive deposit scheme to address the long tail of music production, and it is often unclear exactly where responsibility lies.

Case Studies or Examples:

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