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David Sanjek on philosophy, archives and missing masters

I went to Manchester yesterday to speak with David Sanjek – former head of archives at BMI in the US, now a professor at the University of Salford.

We ended up talking for three hours over coffee and covered everything from the history of music copyright in America to the effect of digitalisation on the practice of archiving. There’s a lot of information to sort through, and a lot of very helpful leads to follow up on.

But I thought I’d give you a taste of the conversation – which included some real eye-opening revelations.

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This is about books

Lawrence Lessig discusses the Google Book Search decision. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine the parallels to recorded music. Except to say that Google isn’t even attempting to do this with recorded music…

Matt Mason on opening the vaults

This afternoon, I interviewed Matt Mason, author of the book The Pirate’s Dilemma, about music, culture, law and the public domain.

We talked about all of the music that’s sitting in the vaults, decaying on master tapes – and Matt shared some good ideas about how this situation could be addressed, from a practical and digitally savvy perspective.

These are a couple of choice quotes from that half-hour interview, which was full of interesting insights and parallels from other cultural industries. I’ll go through the interview in more detail when I get a chance, and transcribe bits that I want to use for the book. But as I find these interesting excerpts, I’ll post them up here for you to listen to and discuss.

It was really great to talk to Matt – someone who’s given these matters a great deal of thought – and I can thoroughly recommend his book (here it is at Amazon).

I’ve also just secured an interview with Dr David Sanjek, former director of the BMI archive and now Director of the Centre for Popular Music at the University of Salford. Looking forward to that one too.

System of Survival

You’ve heard of Earth, Wind and Fire. This is one of their hits, from an album called Touch The World, released in 1987. Never been reissued as far as I can tell. Shame to see it rot, really – especially since it raises some good questions, comments on the contemporary politics of the day and reflects aspects of the culture of its time rather well.

Thanks to Andrew B White for pointing this one out.

So why focus on music?

Pirate with headphones

A few things have made me question my focus on music as the territory for this conversation recently. After all, all culture is under threat as a result of copyright conservatism in a changing media environment.

Chris Bestwick raised the point in a comment on my last post, I’ve talked about it with a few people – and a somewhat belated viewing of Rip: A Remix Manifesto earlier this evening made the point really clear.

The cultural and intellectual lockdown extends way beyond popular music into books, visual arts, academic works, medicine… and extends into the realms of international trade, global politics and genuine life and death issues.

And yet – the book in progress (not to mention this blog) is called ‘Deleting Music’ and not ‘Deleting Culture’. Why?

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