Universal Donates 200,000 Oldies To Library Of Congress

Next Story

Breaking: Holtzbrinck Ventures and HarbourVest closes €177m early stage fund

It’s only fair that after giving the music industry in general a hard time, I should acknowledge when they do something right. Universal Music Group has just donated a huge collection of recordings from the 1930s and 40s to the Library of Congress, where they will be available to be listened to for free. The collection includes iconic, rare, and never-digitized tracks from the jazz and pre-rock period.

The donation is also not just off-tracks or non-commercial ones, like many in the LoC’s collection. It’s described as the “first major collection of studio master materials ever obtained” by the LoC, and hopefully it’s the start of a trend, since (as I looked into yesterday with film) the originals don’t last forever.

However, it’s not like UMG just handed over a drive full of MP3s. They’re giving the original master copies on metal and tape, and some of these have significantly degraded. The LoC will have to put a lot of work into digitizing them, but that’s what they’re here for.

Sincere thanks to UMG for this donation; I’m looking forward to hearing the highlights.

Here’s the full press release, with more details, if you’re interested:

January 10, 2011

Universal Music Group Donates Over 200,000 Master Recordings to the Library of Congress

Library’s Largest Musical Gift Features Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby & Others

The American people, through the nation’s library, will receive a post-holiday gift of vintage sound recordings from one of the world’s largest recording companies. The Library of Congress and the Universal Music Group (UMG) announced today the donation of more than 200,000 historic master recordings-many long out-of-print or never released-to the Library’s Recorded Sound Section, which has more than 3 million sound recordings in its collections.

Totaling in excess of 5,000 linear feet, UMG’s gift is the largest single donation ever received by the Library’s audio-visual division and the first major collection of studio master materials ever obtained by the nation’s oldest cultural institution. Among the collection’s thousands of metal and lacquer discs and master mono tapes are released and unreleased versions of recordings by such seminal artists as Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Tommy Dorsey, Billie Holiday, the Andrews Sisters, Connee Boswell, Jimmy Dorsey, the Mills Brothers, Guy Lombardo, Ella Fitzgerald, Fred Waring, Judy Garland, and Dinah Washington, among others.

They include:

* Bing Crosby’s 1947 version of “White Christmas”
* Louis Armstrong singing “Ain’t Misbehavin’”
* The Mills Brothers’ “Paper Doll”
* Ella Fitzgerald’s and Louis Armstrong’s duet “Frim Fram Sauce”
* Les Paul’s “Guitar Boogie”
* Josh White singing “Jim Crow”
* Machito and his Afro-Cuban All Stars Mercury recordings

“It is certainly within the national interest to acquire this recorded collection, and all its accompanying materials, for custodial care,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “A surprisingly high percentage of America’s recording heritage since the early part of the 20thcentury has been lost due to neglect and deterioration. The donation of the UMG archive to the Library of Congress is a major gift to the nation that will help maintain the inter-generational connection that is essential to keeping alive, in our collective national memory, the music and sound recordings meaningful to past generations.”

UMG has one of the most extensive catalogs of music in the world and its gift to the Library includes historic masters from such subsidiary labels as Decca, Mercury, Vocalion and Brunswick, dating from the late 1920s through the late 1940s. “Music is a distinctive feature of any historical period, and this particular collection of masters provides true insight into popular music’s humble beginnings and who we are as a culture today,” said Zach Horowitz, UMG’s president and chief operating officer. “We are delighted to be collaborating with the Library of Congress to preserve and call attention to the groundbreaking musical achievements of these amazing musical pioneers.”

The Universal Music Collection, which consists of the company’s best existing copies, will be cataloged and digitized at the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va., which will permanently secure their exceptional sonic quality. “The Packard Campus and its employees will work hard to protect the Library’s comprehensive collection and make these recordings accessible to the American people and this generous contribution by Universal Music will help preserve our nation’s rich cultural heritage,” said Congressman Eric Cantor, Majority Leader for the 112thCongress and U.S. Representative from the 7thDistrict of Virginia, which includes Culpeper.

This gift is particularly important in the context of the findings of the first comprehensive, congressionally mandated study ever conducted in the U.S. on a national level. It found that only an estimated 14 percent of pre-1965 commercially released recordings were currently available from rights holders. The study also found that of the music released in the U.S. in the 1930s, only about 10 percent of it could be readily accessed by the public.

The Library will stream recordings from the collection on a website to be launched in the spring. The additions of these recordings will significantly broaden the scope of the site and enhance the Library’s already unprecedented authority to stream commercially owned sound recordings online.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at http://www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myloc.gov .

The Packard Campus is a state-of-the-art facility where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings (www.loc.gov/avconservation). The Packard Campus is funded as a gift to the nation by the Packard Humanities Institute and is home to more than six million collection items.

Universal Music Group is the world’s leading music company with wholly owned record operations or licensees in 77 countries. Its businesses also include Universal Music Publishing Group, the industry’s leading global music publishing operation. UMG’s record labels include: A&M/Octone, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Disa, Emarcy, Fonovisa, Interscope Geffen A&M Records, Island Def Jam Music Group, Lost Highway Records, Machete Music, MCA Nashville, Mercury Nashville, Mercury Records, Polydor Records, Show Dog–Universal Music, Universal Motown Republic Group, Universal Music Latino and Verve Music Group as well as a multitude of record labels owned or distributed by its record company subsidiaries around the world. UMG owns the most extensive catalog of music in the industry, which includes the last 100 years of the world’s most popular artists and their recordings. UMG’s catalog is marketed through two distinct divisions, Universal Music Enterprises (in the U.S.) and Universal Strategic Marketing (outside the U.S.). UMG also includes eLabs, its new media and technologies division; Bravado, its merchandising company; and Twenty-First Artists, its full service management division. UMG is a unit of Vivendi, a global media and communications company.

[via Ars Technica and Engadget]

blog comments powered by Disqus