Indie music culture
This non-profit arts platform is a long-running champion of independent music in Toronto. Since their start in 2000, they’ve hosted some incredible concert series, festivals, and talks. They run a great blog featuring artist interviews and they’re also building an archives, collecting material from past shows at iconic Toronto venues including The Boat, Lee’s Palace, and the El Mocambo.
The fine folks at ARCMTL have been documenting independent arts in Montreal for over two decades and have amazing exhibitions on everything indie from zines to home movies. They’ve also helped organize Basement Tapes Days in Montreal, operate an archives, and host a weekly radio show. Check out their Montreal Sound Ark articles about the 60s and 70s Montreal garage scene!
Aptly named, New Feeling is a welcome addition to the independent music landscape. The music co-op started during the pandemic to provide a more equitable and inclusive space for music journalism and promote emerging Canadian artists. To date, they’ve released nine thematic issues, with insightful writing and coverage of local music scenes across the country. We particularly recommend this interview with musicians Paul Chin and GAYANCE on the pros and cons of crowdfunding projects.
“Holding music history in your hand: Why archives matter”
NPR: The Record
First things first, why archive? This 2013 post by Ann Powers is a poignant primer on the importance of archiving your musical legacy and music in general. Powers also underscores that music archiving is not solely about preserving recordings, but about preserving all the other records that provide context and infuse meaning: “It’s incredibly enriching to discover the stuff an artist kept around, the notes that hold answers in their margins, the lucky charms and ritual objects of an artistic life.” Nodding our heads.
“Things to do at home: Organize your personal archive”
The Writers Guild Foundation
A quick introduction to personal archiving from WGF archivist Hilary Swett. Some simple, approachable tips on getting started. Written for writers, but the guidance is applicable to musicians and anyone looking to organize their records.
Archivist Toolkit – Archives Association of British Columbia (AABC)
A one-stop shop that offers resources and guidance on all facets of archival work, including digital preservation, funding sources, and copyright. The AABC also publishes a extensive manual for smaller institutional and community archives, which includes a dedicated chapter on preserving sound recordings and oral histories.
Community Archiving Workshop (CAW)
Originating from activist archiving roots, CAW provides support to organizations and individuals looking to preserve AV collections. They offer an approachable step-by-step guide for hosting preservation workshops or programs, and their Resources section is absolutely stacked with everything you need to know about handling and archiving AV materials. Hugely inspiring and informative.
Memory Lab Network
A great community archiving initiative out of the US, started by the DC Public Library. Through a National Leadership Grant, the program has administered funding to American public libraries to create “memory labs” where patrons can digitize their AV materials. You don’t need to visit one of the participating libraries to start your personal archiving journey though – they’ve made many of their tutorials and webinars available on their YouTube channel. And check out Maximum Preservation – a very cool zine co-produced with the DC Punk Archive.
Digitization for Everybody (Dig4E)
Dig4E was a three-year project (2018-2020) from the University of Michigan’s Faculty of Information. The website offers training and modules divided into three categories – images, audio, and video. Dig4E is a bit more formal in its structure (there are lessons and quizzes), but there’s nothing stopping an enthusiastic self-learner from accessing the materials and getting a thorough (free!) education on the technical aspects of digital preservation.
Preservation Self-Assessment Program
A very handy and extensive collection guide prepared by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which breaks down every conceivable type of archival record, outlines specific considerations and the history of each format, and assigns levels of preservation risk. This site is a great place for learning about the wide world of AV formats, but the PSAP also covers photographs, types of paper and ink, objects, etc. An incredible resource for anyone who is archivally inclined.
AV Artifact Atlas
Your home on the web for trouble-shooting AV preservation. On this site, you’ll find a comprehensive glossary of AV terms and an overview of the technical issues and anomalies you may encounter when preserving legacy formats. The Atlas is intended as a community resource, and was first developed by Stanford and New York University.
Music Archives/Collections (Canada)
An evolving list of Canadian music archives and collections, created and updated by the TINI team. Although it is extensive, it is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to reach out if you know of an archives or music collection that you’d like to see included here.
Popular Music Archives (US)
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame presents…a comprehensive rundown of popular music archives and libraries in the US.
Inches Per Second [blog]
Regularly updated audio archive and blog run by record collector and musician Bob Purse. Uploaded recordings are generally from Purse’s own collection, and his passion for this niche format shines through beautifully.
Sites and organizations we like
Association of Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC)
The ARSC is the definitive organization for the history and preservation of audio technology from wax cylinders to WAV files and everything in between. Download a free PDF of their ARSC Guide to Audio Preservation, also available in print format for a small fee. The non-profit organization hosts an annual conference, maintains an active listserv, and publishes a newsletter and journal (both are free for ARSC members). Extremely diverse expertise among its active membership.
An innovative research project focused on archiving the spoken word in Canada. Spoken Web is a collaborative effort, bringing together institutional and community partners, audio experts, archivists, researchers, and students. They host a podcast, a blog, and organize events, educational workshops, and performances. Fittingly, they also archive their efforts and make these materials freely accessible online. A great site to spend some time exploring.
Music Memory / Dust-to-Digital
Music Memory is the non-profit arm of Dust-to-Digital, an Atlanta-based company that publishes specialty books, box sets, and re-issues of hard-to-access music (check out their Bandcamp!). The Music Memory project is primarily focused on digitizing roots music from the 1920s to 1950s but they also posts pretty obscure clips and histories of musicians all over the world via Twitter, Facebook, and their newly launched Substack.
We love the ethos behind this collective from the US. Through a partnership model, they work with individuals and grassroots organizations to provide low-cost, small-scale digitization services, host workshops and events, and offer a ton of great resources on their website. They’re not a digitization vendor or a repository in a traditional sense (much of what they digitize is transferred to their Internet Archive page). Instead, their emphasis is on empowering and supporting anyone interested in AV preservation.
A non-profit media organization based in San Francisco, BAVC has been supporting independent video-making and media preservation since the 1970s. Their focus is on building community, advocating for storytellers, and increasing representation in the media arts. Check out their Preservation page to get inspired by their initiatives and view the open-source tools they’ve developed for AV preservation.
“Steve Albini on the surprisingly sturdy state of the music industry”
The Guardian. Link.
A musician, record producer, and music journalist, Albini brings a well-rounded perspective and insights on the evolution of the industry in the post-download era. This article functions as a de-facto supplement to his 1993 article “The Problem with Music” in The Baffler, which remains a classic must read.
Preserving Flying Nun Records’ master tapes.
National Library of New Zealand. Links here and here.
A behind the scenes look at what goes into AV preservation from an archival standpoint. These two blog posts detail the work of conservators at New Zealand National Library to archive the master tapes of Flying Nun Records, a legendary NZ indie record label. A great overview of the technical processes and care required to digitize obsolete and degrading formats, with a cameo from magnetic tape’s archnemesis – sticky shed syndrome.