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Digital Preservation

The Library of Congress > Digital Preservation > News Archive > Preserving Audio in the Digital Age

April 6, 2011 -- BMS/Chace (external link) President and co-founder John Spencer visited the Library on December 17, 2010 for a discussion titled "Preserving Creative America: Collecting Metadata for Recorded Sound." A webcast of the event is now available.

John Spencer speaking at the Library of Congress.

John Spencer

The adoption of digital recording has virtually eliminated the vital documentation once associated with the analog recording process. At the same time digital technology has created a nightmare to document, maintain and store relevant information about recordings throughout their life cycle.

Spencer is a music industry veteran, with a long-time engagement with the Recording Academy’s Producers and Engineer’s Wing (external link) and the Audio Engineering Society’s Studio Practices and Production Technical Committee. (external link)

This concern about the longevity of digital recordings led to his partnership with the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program under the Preserving Creative America program. His project, "Metadata Schema Development for Recorded Sound," is exploring the structured collection of audio multitrack metadata, working to create a shareable application that facilitates the gathering of technical and descriptive metadata along with participant information and roles in the recording process.

For the preservation community, the rich documentation to support digital micropayments are a boon to preservation. The issues that challenge the industry’s capabilities for tracking music for income-generating purposes are some of the same issues that work against the ability to preserve digital music for long-term cultural heritage purposes.

The software being developed through Spencer’s project goes a long way to solving this dilemma. The Content Creator Database (soon to be available at is a free, downloadable, cross-platform application to facilitate the collection of metadata created during the recording process (technical, descriptive, participants, etc.) that can be used for every potential recording scenario, from a bedroom studio to multi-room facilities.

Spencer’s demonstration highlighted the ease of use of the interface and the extensive work that went into creating an application that allows the capture of all potentially useful metadata. His project has also been working closely with the standards body responsible for the International Standard Recording Code (external link), a unique identifier for a specific recording which can be permanently encoded into a product as its digital fingerprint. Encoded ISRCs provide the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments.