Preserving musical heritage …

One of the casualties of the London riots last week was a Sony distribution warehouse.

The building, owned by Sony DADC, was also the main HQ for the UK’s biggest distributor of independent music, Pias. [More than 1.5m CDs destroyed in Sony warehouse fire]

Interestingly, Sony looked after the stock of more than 150 record labels at the warehouse. According to the BBC story quoted above “As well as CDs, the 20,000 sq m (215,000 sq ft) centre was used to store DVDs, Blu-ray discs and discs used for PlayStation Portable games.”
It was depressing reading about the impact on the affected independent labels and artists and the music stores who depend on them (see, for example this NME blog entry and this Guardian article). Several support initiatives for labels have been set up. I immediately thought about the heightened awareness about distribution, supply chain management and risk following the Japanese earthquakes earlier this year (see this NYT story for example).
One of the consequences of the arson is that some of the labels may not re-issue physical formats of the music. See this note on the Buzzin’ Fly label, for example:

09.08.11 Buzzin’ Fly stock goes up in flames in warehouse fire during London riots
London, 13h33 , temperature 21°, humidity 72%, clear. Virtually all Buzzin’ Fly and Strange Feeling stock was destroyed in an arson attack on the Sony DADC warehouse in Enfield last night during the London riots. The warehouse contained all records distributed by our distributor, PIAS. Other labels are also badly hit. There are a handful of copies of some releases (and a full download catalogue) left on sale on the Buzzin’ Fly online shop, but beyond that it is unlikely much of our stock will ever be repressed if at all. A huge slice of the label’s history has been destroyed. [Buzzin’ Fly Records]

However, it made me realise that I knew little about how well, or not, libraries and other memory institutions (in this case, this seems an appropriate term) are prepared for preservation of digital music.

2 thoughts on “Preserving musical heritage …”

  1. This article has got a very serious undertone. I am thinking there seems to be a very limited collection of physical cd’s produced by particular low-key musical groups, and it may be therefore more worthwhile for them to start selling their music online. It is much easier to market online, and producing cd’s could be very expensive. It seems with such small groups, who only produced a limited number of cd’s in any case, digital distribution may be better. It is a shame for all of their music to go up in smoke from one fire alone. If it would be stored in their computers, it surely could not be destroyed, so easily. Things can go missing, but it seems electronic files, are safer.
    I am sad about this story, but it seems to tell us a lesson, about the strongest ways of preserving documents.
    Thank you for your comments on the impact of the fires on record preservation.
    A concerned person over the impact of the fire.

Leave a Reply