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Label music gives a huge present to US Library of Congress

Submitted by Bernardo Parrella on Fri, 14/01/2011 - 00:52

Universal will donate more than 200,000 master recordings from the '20-40s, to be published on the Web. [13jan11]

The largest music company in the world has just given the largest audio-visual gift ever to one of the largest libraries in the world, the US Library of Congress. Universal will donate more than 200,000 master recordings from the 1920s-1940s to the Library, which will make this rare music available to the public over the Web.

The recordings come from Universal's in-house collection and feature the best existing master copies of Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" in 1947 and Les Paul doing the "Guitar Boogie." The master recordings currently reside on metal and lacquer discs, with some on mono tape, and they feature plenty of material that was never released from such artists as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong.

While this is of immense historic value, the commercial value for most of it is more limited. An important Library of Congress study found that only 14 percent of pre-1965 recordings are available commercially; even in the age of iTunes, huge quantities of recorded music still can't be purchased.


To put the donation in context, the Library's Recorded Sound Section currently has around three million total items, so another 200,000 recordings is a significant addition. More significant is the fact that most of those existing three million recordings are noncommercial (the collection includes items like "Tony Schwartz presents a montage of schoolchildren telling the same story in different ways"). The Universal donation is, according the Library, the "first major collection of studio master materials ever obtained."

Read full article on ArsTechnica website.

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