Internet Archive Lawsuit May Have Dire Implications for Lenders and Borrowers Alike: Redefining “Ownership” in the Age of Subscription Services

Open Library

In case the story has escaped your personal social media feed or news aggregator, there is a lawsuit unfolding before our eyes which is unprecedented in the history of librarianship. It has the potential to affect all of us, from students to educators to anyone who supports Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the United States Constitution which grants the enumerated power “To promote the progress of science and useful arts” and what it means to “own a book.”

Maria Bustillos of The Nation published a startling summary of the Archive.org Open Library lawsuit and what it may mean for libraries and borrowers in the future. Several other major news sites have reported about the suit, the trial of which is set for next year in federal court, and initial disclosures for discovery are already under way. I’ll quote from this particular article liberally as it most effectively and contextually frames the significance of the lawsuit and its potential impact better than any other write-up I’ve read to date.

Bustillos begins by framing the circumstances which led to the founding of the National Emergency Library at the onset of the global pandemic.

When Covid-19 struck, hundreds of millions of students were suddenly stranded at home without access to teachers or libraries. UNESCO reported that in April, 90 percent of the world’s enrolled students had been adversely affected by the pandemic. In response, the Internet Archive’s Open Library announced the National Emergency Library, a temporary program suspending limits on the number of patrons who could borrow its digital books simultaneously. The Open Library lends at no charge about 4 million digital books, 2.5 million of which are in the public domain, and 1.4 million of which may be under copyright and subject to lending restrictions. (This is roughly equivalent to a medium-sized city library; the New York Public Library, by comparison, holds 21.9 million books and printed materials and 1.78 million e-books

Brewster Kahle, the Internet Archive’s founder and digital librarian, wrote in March that the National Emergency Library would ensure “that students will have access to assigned readings and library materials…for the remainder of the US academic calendar.” He acknowledged that authors and publishers would also be harmed by the pandemic, urged those in a position to buy books to do so, and offered authors a form for removing their own books from the program, if they chose.

More than 100 libraries, archives, and other institutions signed on to a statement of support for the program, including MIT, Penn State, Emory University, the Boston Public Library, Middlebury College, Amherst College, George Washington University, the Claremont Colleges Library, and the Greater Western Library Alliance.

…Harvard history professor and author Jill Lepore joined many media observers in praising the National Emergency Library as “a gift to readers everywhere.”

Next she outlined the terms of the suit and the responsive actions which followed:

On June 1, Whitehead’s publisher, Penguin Random House, together with fellow megapublishers Hachette, HarperCollins, and Wiley, filed a lawsuit against the Internet Archive alleging “mass copyright infringement.” The Internet Archive closed the National Emergency Library on June 16, citing the lawsuit and calling for the publishers to stand down. But the plaintiffs are continuing to press their claims, and are now seeking to close the whole Open Library permanently.

what’s really at stake in this lawsuit is the idea of ownership itself—what it means not only for a library but for anyone to own a book.

Her insights on the indispensability of the Internet Archive follow, demonstrating how critical it is to preserve this organization:

The Internet Archive is far more than the Open Library; it’s a nonprofit institution that has become a cornerstone of archival activity throughout the world. Brewster Kahle is an Internet pioneer who was writing about the importance of preserving the digital commons in 1996. He built the Wayback Machine, without which an incalculable amount of the early Web would have been lost for good. The Internet Archive has performed pioneering work in developing public search tools for its own vast collections, such as the television news archive, which researchers and journalists like me use on an almost daily basis in order to contextualize and interpret political reporting. These resources are unique and irreplaceable.

The Internet Archive is a tech partner to hundreds of libraries, including the Library of Congress, for whom it develops techniques for the stewardship of digital content. It helps them build their own Web-based collections with tools such as Archive-It, which is currently used by more than 600 organizations including universities, museums, and government agencies, as well as libraries, to create their own searchable public archives. The Internet Archive repairs broken links on Wikipedia—by the million. It has collected thousands of early computer games, and developed online emulators so they can be played on modern computers. It hosts collections of live music performances, 78s and cylinder recordings, radio shows, films and video.

Equally importantly, Bustillos draws the parallels between traditional and modern digital libraries like the Open Library:

Like a traditional library, the Internet Archive buys or accepts donations of physical books. The archive scans its physical books, making one digital copy available for each physical book it owns. The digitized copies are then loaned out for a limited period, like a traditional library loan. The physical books from which the scans were made are stored and do not circulate, a practice known as “own-to-loan.”

Harvard copyright scholar and lawyer Kyle Courtney has explained this reasoning very clearly. “Libraries do not need permission or a license to loan those books that they have purchased or acquired,” he said at a recent conference. “Copyright law covers those exact issues.… Congress actually placed all of these specialized copyright exemptions for libraries in the Copyright Act itself.”

And it is next that Bustillos expresses the most fundamental concern regarding the suit, and the dangerous implications that it may bear upon the lending market in the future. There is an undeniably growing global trend of media consumers retiring analog media in exchange for cloud-based access to their digital counterparts. But this trade-off comes at an alarming cost.

Physical media libraries continue to diminish as a younger generation is ushered into a subscription-service-based way of life. Music collections are being replaced with Spotify accounts. Video game consoles are being released with no physical disc drives and instead offer digital downloads which have no value should a gamer decide that they wish to explore other systems. DVD collections are becoming less common as viewers opt to curate their “collections” on services like Netflix. And software packages are no longer purchased once physically and owned thereafter – users are instead forced to pay a monthly subscription fee for continued access. 

Could we see the same thing happen with digital books? As a lifelong cataloger and curator, I can’t imagine relinquishing my physical libraries and chaining myself to a perpetual monthly slow-bleed of non-ownership. So much of my identity is embodied in my curation. But if publishers have their way with the lending market and related legislation, we may be forced into just such a reality.

Bustillos explains:

Publishers approve of libraries paying for e-book licenses because they’re temporary, just like your right to watch a movie on Netflix is temporary and can evaporate at any moment. In the same way, publishers would like to see libraries obliged to license, not to own, books—that is, continue to pay for the same book again and again. That’s what this lawsuit is really about. It’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that publishers took advantage of the pandemic to achieve what they had not been able to achieve previously: to turn the library system into a “reading as a service” operation from which they can squeeze profits forever.

The Internet is 31 years old, and in those three short decades the virtual world we’ve come to depend on has slowly eroded the idea of private ownership—literally, your right to call your belongings your own. Things you used to buy just once, such as your own private copies of software like Photoshop or Word, your privately owned vinyl discs and CDs, or movies on VHS—have increasingly begun to come through dispensing services you pay for every month, from vendors like Adobe, Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify. And you’ll never stop paying.

“Libraries buy, preserve, and lend,” he said. “That’s been the model forever. [Libraries] actually supply about 20 percent of the revenue to the publishing industry. But if they cannot buy, preserve, and lend—if all they become is a redistributor, a Netflix for books—my God, we have a society that can get really out of control. Because if a publisher maintains control over every reading event, who’s allowed to read it, when are they allowed to read it, if they’re allowed to read it, and be able to prevent anybody, or particular regions, from being able to see something, we are in George Orwell world.

Another journalist, Mike Masnick of Techdirt was equally impassioned and emphatic about the erroneousness and fallaciousness of this lawsuit.

For many years, we’ve said that if the public library were invented today, the book publishers would sue it out of existence. It appears that the big book publishers have decided to prove me right, as they have decided to sue the Internet Archive for lending ebooks without a license.

While many publishers and authors declared this to be “piracy,” that did not square with reality. The Internet Archive was relying on a variety of precedents regarding the legality of libraries scanning books and lending books, as well as around fair use, to argue that what it was doing was perfectly legal. Indeed, the deeper you looked at the issue, the more it looked like the publishers and authors were upset with the Internet Archive for being a library, since libraries don’t need special licenses to lend out books.

Except the identical argument applies to public libraries lending physical copies as well. It does not “grossly exceed legitimate library services.” It makes books it has in its possession available for borrowing. Just like a library. Yes, the books are digitized, but libraries also distribute exact copies of books in their entirety for reading purposes to the public for free. Including voluminous numbers of books that are currently commercially available.

That’s a LIBRARY.

Masnick reiterates this theme of how the Open Library is precisely that throughout his article. He explains:

Books have long been essential to our society. Fiction and non-fiction alike, they transport us to new worlds, broaden our horizons, provide us with perspective, reflect the evergrowing knowledge of humanity in every field, spark our imaginations and deepen our understanding of the world. Yet, books are not self-generating. They are the product of training and study, talent and grit, perseverance and creativity, investment and risk, and untold hours of work.

That’s right: and for tons of people they way they read those books is from a library.

The publishers have been chipping away at “libraries” for years. Before ebooks, libraries could buy books and lend them out. They didn’t need a special license. However, in recent years, publishers have rushed into the opportunity created by ebooks to change that, and to require licenses (crazy, expensive licenses) for ebooks. Just last fall we noted how publishing giant Macmillan (which, somewhat oddly, is the one big publishing house that is not a plaintiff) had gone to war with libraries, using its extreme ebook pricing and licensing terms to basically kill the market for ebook library lending.

But also looking over that list, I see a bunch of books that I know are read in schools — meaning that these publishing houses likely have just screwed over a bunch of teachers and students, many of whom already have physical copies of books, but find them inaccessible for the kids to read while we all still remain under lockdown.

So much for those books being “essential to our society.”

He closes his write-up emphasizing:

…there are very real concerns that this fight could bankrupt the entire Internet Archive.

I do wonder if the authors who spoke out against this really want to shut down such an important institution just so they can sell a couple more books.

I suspect he is quite right, indeed.

Masnick provides numerous links to sources corroborating each of his points, but for a balanced perspective, I also made sure to search for articles challenging the claims made by these writers in an effort to counter their arguments. I could only find one opposing document, penned by Aja Romano, an Internet Culture Reporter for Vox.com. Romano rebukes reporters for the sense of urgency expressed by those wary of the lawsuit’s implications and says the suit is “not as dire as you may have heard.”  

Romano does give credit to The Internet Archive for its achievements, noting that the Wayback Machine comprises a digital collection of roughly 390 billion pages dating back to 1996 – a 10-petabyte collection and the deepest archive of internet history in existence. But she states that “the reporting surrounding [the lawsuit] was hyperbolic and alarmist.” 

Regarding the impact of the suit on the sustainability of The Internet Archive, Romano notes the following:

If the court awards the plaintiffs the maximum amount provided under the law, the most the Internet Archive would have to pay would be $19 million — essentially equivalent to one year of operating revenue, according to IA tax documents. That’s a huge setback, but for the IA, a tech nonprofit that relies heavily on grants and public donations, it’s not the major death blow it might seem to be.

Even if that is the case, Romano fails to address the suggested implications that such a ruling could potentially have on the market as a whole.

So what do you think? Does the Open Library lawsuit set a precedent for all lenders which could potentially transform the library system into a subscription-based “reading as a service” operation? And might these extreme ebook pricing and licensing terms kill the market for ebook library lending altogether?

Hold onto your books, everyone.

Innerspace Labs’ Year-End Large Library Catalog

With Thanksgiving off from work and the whole day to myself it felt like the perfect opportunity to run some metrics on my archive to provide me with some valuable insight as to the development of my larger libraries just in time to close out the year. 

And it couldn’t have come a more fitting time, as I’ve been filled with inspiration and have been actively expanding my archive thanks to the magnificent ambient soundscapes showcased on the syndicated radio program, Hearts of Space

I maintain a complete broadcast archive of every transmission of the program since 1983 – over 1200 hours of ambient space music. These tone poems accompany me for eight hours every day at the office, and all through the night as I sleep. (For someone as hyperproductive as I am, this music is a godsend as it helps to quiet my overactive mind.)

Captivated by these contemporary instrumental works, I’ve spent the last few months compiling complete discographic archives of the artists featured on the program, many of whom have over one hundred albums in their respective catalogs spanning the history of ambient and space music. It’s a labor of love, and infinitely rewarding as I enjoy the company of their music all throughout my waking and restful hours.

I had previously compiled a digital archive of all official and unofficial Tangerine Dream releases, including the Tangerine Tree live recording archive totaling 298 discs of electronic ambient music. 

Soon thereafter I assembled a complete discography of the 45 releases by modern classical composer Harold Budd. I’ve loved his soft-pedal technique ever since I first heard his collaborations with Brian Eno.

Inspired by the Hearts of Space program I continued this effort by building a lossless library of the 72 releases by veteran ambient composer, Robert Rich. Rich has been featured on 84 transmissions of Hearts of Space and is a staple figure of the genre.

From there I built an archive of the 161-album catalog of his collaborator and Hearts of Space favorite artist, Steve Roach. Roach’s recordings are informed by his impressions of environment, perception, flow, and space and are considered to be highly influential in the genre of new age music.

Next I compiled a complete 100-album discography of the late master of Tibetan singing bowls, Klaus Wiese. Wiese played tamboura on Popol Vuh’s classic Hosianna Mantra and Seligpreisung LPs and is considered by some as one of the great ambient and space music artists.

I then secured a 149-disc library of the German dark ambient / drone ambient musician, Mathias Grassow. His Wikipedia entry notes that “[his] music often has a meditative and emotional and spiritual context, which induces deep feelings of introspection in listeners.”

I did the very same for the Berlin minimalist composer Andrea Porcu, who performs under the moniker Music For Sleep, and for UK experimental artist 36 (a project of Dennis Huddleston), and for other prominent figures of the genre. 

These explorations directly resulted in a number of physical media investments like the Hearts of Space first transmission LP limited to 500 copies worldwide, Robert Rich’s Premonitions 4LP box set (also limited to 500 copies), and the limited edition Nighthawks / Translucence / Drift Music autographed vinyl box set comprising the complete collaborations of Harold Budd and John Foxx.

I last published a feature on my playlist projects five years ago so it seemed like a good idea to recalculate the number of albums and total runtimes for the artists and record labels representing the largest segments of my library as a means of both organizing large sets of data and to serve as a reminder of catalogs I still need to explore in full. And while the former project from 2015 included large-scale genre maps I thought that this time it would be more productive to focus on specific artists, producers, and record labels specializing in a particular sound to highlight large libraries in my archive.

So that tabulation is consistent and equally weighted across various collections, I’ve calculated totals based on the total number of discs, so that a 30-disc box set weighs accurately against a single-disc release.

I factored collections of greater than 20 albums as being eligible large libraries. I was going to render a set of graphs of the results as I did with large playlists in 2015, but given the sheer number of eligible sets I felt that the data is most clearly expressed in a basic table. This list of approximately one hundred artists accounts for roughly 1% of the artists in my library, but over 75% of the total albums cataloged.

Here are the results, organized from largest to smallest libraries. I’ll divide the results into three categorical sets – first complete artist / record label discographies, followed by libraries of old time radio broadcasts, and close with box sets of audiobooks.

Here are the discographies:

Largest Discographic Archives by Artist / Record Label:# of Discs
Hearts of Space Radio Broadcast Archive1232
The Progressive-Kraut-Psych-Avant garde Rock Collection (Vols I-VIII)753
Underworld600
The World’s Greatest Jazz Collection500
Psybient DVD Packs Map317
Tangerine Dream and Tangerine Tree Live Archive298
Big Band Music Digital Archive259
FAX +49-69450464 Catalog (Pete Namlook)254
The KLF / Kopyright Liberation Front / JAMS / Justified Ancients of Mu Mu / The Timelords189
Steve Roach161
Ninja Tune Records154
Mathais Grassow149
Future Sounds of London & Amorphous Androgynous141
Lemon Jelly137
Keith Jarrett135
Max & Dima: Sapovnela Studio Sessions131
Throbbing Gristle131
111 Years of Deutsche Grammophon111
Miles Davis109
Daft Punk104
Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno100
Flea Market Funk: Funky Soul & Rare Groove100
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention100
Hit the Brakes DJ Series100
Klaus Wiese100
RYM Top 100 Downtempo / Trip Hop LPs100
Sigur Ros100
Nurse With Wound99
Franz Liszt97
Thelonious Sphere Monk97
Good Looking Records: Archive of LTJ Bukem’s Intelligent D’n’B Label94
Deuter89
Franklin Mint’s 100 Greatest Recordings of all Time88
Vangelis87
Richard D. James / Aphex Twin86
Karlheinz Stockhausen86
Jimmy Smith85
Klaus Schulze81
Ravi Shankar81
Ludwig Van Beethoven80
Sun Ra and the Arkestra74
John Cage73
2manyDJS / Radio Soulwax72
Robert Rich72
They Might Be Giants72
Café del Mar71
Peter Gabriel68
Philip Glass68
Ornette Coleman66
Mike Oldfield65
Muslimgauze63
Tom Waits63
The Orb63
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers62
Spacemind Psybient Mix Series62
Cornelius60
Attention K-Mart Shoppers: K-Mart Corporate Muzak (1973-1992)58
DJ Food & Solid Steel Radio Sets58
Porcupine Tree58
Parliament / Funkadelic57
Ambient Music Guide Podcast (2015-2019) by Mike G55
Cocteau Twins52
Herbie Hancock52
Ash Ra Tempel / Manuel Göttsching50
Early Experimental Electronic Music (1940-1976)50
Bill Laswell49
Early Moog & Synthesizer Library48
Jimmy McGriff48
Harold Budd45
Ryuichi Sakamoto44
Duke Ellington42
Bob Marley & The Wailers40
Captain Beefheart40
DJ Prestige39
Fela Kuti: The King of Afrobeat39
Enya37
John Fahey36
Fluke35
Low35
Arvo Pärt33
Electronic Supper Club33
Robert Fripp33
Charles Mingus32
Jah Wobble31
Moog Indigo: Classic Albums of Space Age Bachelor Pad Music31
Claude Debussy30
John Coltrane30
The Flaming Lips30
Chant Ambrosien: Sacred Music From the Middle Ages to the 20th Century29
Music For Sleep (Andrea Porcu)29
Kruder & Dorfmeister28
Moondog28
Cabaret Voltaire26
William Basinski26
Son House: Walkin’ Blues (The Complete Recordings)25
Top 25 Psybient Ultimae Records Releases25
Autechre24
36 (Ambient Composer Dennis Huddleston)22
Biosphere21

And the Old Time Radio series:

Old Time Radio:# of Discs
Dragnet298
The Adventures of Superman171
The Goon Show168
X Minus One (1955-1973)122
CBS Radio Mystery Theater: The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes83
BBC Radio: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes79
The Shadow (1937-1954)75
The Complete Sherlock Holmes Audiobooks60
Flash Gordon26
Orson Welles Mercury Theater 193820

And Audiobooks:

Audiobooks:# of Discs
Ray Bradbury425
Isaac Asimov348
Douglas Adams268
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle207
Philip K Dick124
HP Lovecraft (Dark Adventure Radio Theatre Complete Programs)17

The next libraries I intend to collect are Conny Plank’s 122-release extended discography, Dieter Moebius’ 65-album map, Hans-Joachim Roedelius’ 115-release catalog, and the 126 releases by Klaus Schulze, Pete Namlook, and Tetsu Inoue.

This new data will prove to be immeasurably useful for my annual reports and as a mental bookmark of large libraries I’ll continue to explore throughout my work days and subliminally while I sleep each night. And I have exciting new listening equipment arriving in the weeks ahead which will further enhance my sonic experience so stay tuned for an exciting feature to kick off the year 2020!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Personal Collection or Archive?: A Closer Look at What Defines a Library

archive

I was recently contacted by Dan Gravell, founder and programmer of the server-based music management software, bliss. Bliss received praise from Andrew Everard of What Hi-Fi and their official website calls it a tool “for people who care about their music collection.” Dan posed several questions about my library, and about what differentiates an average personal music collection from a true archive. He suggested that my response might prove useful as a journal entry at Innerspace Labs, so I’m sharing my response for others who might ask the same questions about their own meticulous collections.

So let’s dive right in –

Regarding the difference between run-of-the-mill “playable” music libraries and what one might call an “archive,” there are a few primary factors which could differentiate the two. The first is one of practical function and intent. If a library is for personal use for playback alone it is most likely the former, whereas a consciously organized collection of significant size and scope which is representative of a particular period or culture and which sheds contextual light on that era might serve a greater, almost scholarly purpose as an archive. Uniformity of structure, organization, navigability, and accompanying supplemental metadata enhance a library such as this to greater usefulness than mere playback. And it appears that it is precisely this focus on consistency by which Dan has endeavored to empower users like me with his bliss project. Another important factor is the long-term sustainability of an archive, which I’ll touch upon momentarily.

Next Dan asked whether my source media is exclusively physical. My collection comprises only a few thousand LPs, with a significant focus on the history of electronic sound. This spans the gamut from early notable works of musique concrète to the Moog synthesizer novelty craze, all the way through the international movement of ambient electronic music. I’ve also a predilection for archival box sets, like the Voyager Golden Record 40th Anniversary set with companion hardcover book and the special release from The John Cage Trust, as well as the previously unreleased collection of Brian Eno’s installation music issued earlier this year on vinyl with a new essay by Eno. But the bulk of my library is digital. This is both for practical and financial reasons, as digital libraries are far easier to maintain. (I don’t blog about digital nearly as often, as 450,000 media files are nowhere near as fascinating as a handsome limited edition LP!)

Dan also inquired about my workflow, which is critical to any archive. Early on in the development of my library, (around 2002-3), I began ripping LPs with the following process:

Exclusive analog recordings are captured using a Denon DP-60L rosewood TT with an Ortofon 2M Red cart, powered by a McIntosh amplifier (later replaced with a vintage Yamaha unit), and are saved as lossless FLAC via an entry level Behringer U-Control UCA202 DAC. I previously utilized a Cambridge Audio DacMagic DAC but after it failed I opted for the Behringer and it has been more than sufficient for my needs. Audio is captured using Audacity on my Linux-based DAW and basic leveling and noise reduction are performed but I minimize post-processing to maintain as much of the original audio’s integrity as possible.

Dan specifically inquired as to where the library information was stored (barcodes, etc) and asked about my policies on which metadata are included. This is fairly straightforward, as nearly all of the vinyl recordings I ripped pre-date the use of barcodes or were limited private releases with only a catalog number, which I bracket as a suffix in the release folder path.

Polybagged LPs are stored vertically and organized by primary genre, then by artist, then chronologically by date of issue. Due to the entropic property of vinyl playback, discs are played once as needed to capture the recording and subsequent playback is performed using the digital files. I employed a dozen static local DB applications over the years for my records, but eventually migrated to a Discogs DB which increases accessibility while crate digging in the wild and provides real-time market value assessment for insurance purposes.

But honestly, I almost never need to perform the rip myself, as the filesharing ecosystem has refined itself to the point where even the most exclusive titles are available through these networks in lossless archival FLAC with complete release details. There has never been a better time to be alive as an audio archivist.

Once digitized to FLAC, my assets are organized with uniform file naming conventions with record label and artist parent folders and parenthetical date of issue prefixes for easy navigation. gMusicBrowser is my ideal playback software for accessing large libraries in a Linux environment. Release date and catalog numbers have been sufficient metadata identifiers, as subsequent release details are only a click or a tap away on Discogs. Occasionally I will include a contextual write-up in the release folder where warranted, like in the case of William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops 9LP + 5CD + DVD set as it related to the events of 9/11.

Next Dan inquired about how my archive is accessed. I employ Sindre Mehus’ Subsonic personal server application on my Linux DAW to make all of my audio and music video film content accessible from my phone, tablet, or any web-enabled device. I use both the official Subsonic app and the independently-developed Ultrasonic fork by Óscar García Amor for remote access of my library, (about eight hours daily). You can see a short video walkthrough of the features of the app that I put together here:

To return to his initial question about what differentiates a playback collection from an archive, my own library incorporates a few key factors which might lend itself to the latter:

– lossless bit-perfect FLAC wherever possible
– index documentation
– a systematic process guide for new acquisitions
– a 76pp manual highlighting special collections and large libraries of the Collection
– disk mirroring in multiple physical locations for preservation and sustainability
– fire protection for further indestructibility
– routine disk operation tests to mitigate risk of data loss
– complete discographic record label chronologies suffixed with catalog numbers
– elementary data visualizations created using Gephi and Prezi web-based tools
– the use of TrueCrypt whole disk encryption to prevent unauthorized access
– and the active use of Subsonic and Ultrasonic for enhanced accessibility

And scale is another noteworthy factor in my circumstances. Just to cite one example, I’ve collected every LP and single issued by the electronic duo Underworld that I’ve been able to get my hands on, and the digital audio branch of my Underworld collection comprises 482 albums, EPs and singles, including 2850 tracks and DJ sessions totaling well over 385 hours of non-stop music, spanning 36 years of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith’s work in all of their many incarnations. This collection is uniformly tagged, organized into a network of categorical root folders, and substructured into chronological subfolders by date of release. And the complete record label collections are a definite differentiator from the majority of casual-listening libraries.

I understand that my archive is small compared to the 12-20 TB libraries of some more seasoned users, but I feel that discretion and selectivity are virtues of my personal collection so that I can focus on only the most exquisite and remarkable recordings of my principle genre foci.

So what about your own collections? Do you employ standardized uniform file naming conventions and organizational standards? Do you supplement your library with relevant documentation to add context to your media? Does your collection offer insight into a particular era or musical culture? And do you take measures to ensure the longevity and sustainability of the work? If so… you might just have an archive.

Supplemental Note:

A good friend was kind enough to offer his thoughts about what sets an archive apart from other collections, and his remark was too good not to share. He said –

I think another major difference between the average personal collection and an archive is retention and adaptation.

A casual listener or collector wouldn’t have the retention of a true archive. The individual may build some playlists or even some advanced structure for locating and listening to music, but there is a very good chance that after some time, that particular music will get buried by the newer, or the most current thing the user is listening to. The casual listener may not want the huge or growing library, so when they feel they have moved on, the music will be removed from their collection. I cannot see someone who is keeping an archive remove anything from their collection. So retaining the entire collection and not removing anything because they are bored with it would be a difference.

I also mentioned adaptation. This is a rather basic idea but would be rather important in the grand scheme of things. Lets say you have a collection of 100 songs, all with 4 points of meta data. You realize as you begin to add more songs to your collection, a 5th point of data is needed. A casual listener may leave those 100 songs in the current state they’re in, with the 4 points of data. The archivist would need to go back, and add that 5th point to all 100 songs, and the new ones. Add another zero to those numbers and that can be a daunting, but necessary task for the archivist.

I really appreciated his input!

The Innerspace Labs Essential Recordings Guide

Another successful project implementation at Innerspace Labs!

For the last year, I’d been keeping a list of music to listen to in a checklist app, but the scope of the project quick outgrew the checklist format, so I reconstructed it as an organic digital music journal that can grow with my listening habits.

The initial process guide built from my notes comprises 76 pages of content, organized into 50+ sections with decimal numbered subsections. The journal also includes genre surveys, links to web resources, articles and reviews, and much, much more.
It will be fun to build and explore, will promote new and rewarding listening experiences, and will serve as a historical document of my musical journey. Perhaps it can even survive me as part of my legacy to help future listeners explore the world of music I leave to them when I’m gone.

That legacy factor developed into a second project which I’ve just completed this evening. While my blog and the journal will outlast me and serve well for any curious future listener looking to discover great music, I felt it would help to have something more digestible and more concise to introduce new readers to my archive.

That’s when I had the idea of generating a user list on RateYourMusic.com to showcase favorite recordings from my library with very brief statements about each work. Tonight, the resulting list is live on RYM.

Check it out here!

Screenshot from 2017-11-21 20-12-46

 

Published in: on November 21, 2017 at 8:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Fall 2015 Megapost: The Playlist Project

This summer brought many changes to The Innerspace Library.  First we started fresh with a Linux OS and finally said “farewell” to Windows.  There was a brief period of limbo as I tested various open source media management software to find the right fit for my collection.  I finally settled down with gmusicbrowser which outperformed Clementine and other major players in its handling of large libraries and in the incredible versatility and customization of its GUI.

This was the very first time since the launch of Winamp 5 (the amusing successor to  Winamp 3) that I’d explored the power of music metadata to organize my library dynamically across multiple data points.  (I’d never really saw the need during my years with MediaMonkey Gold.)

But as the summer drew to a close, I was still irked  that my Subsonic media server lacked the function of genre browsing.  I’d previously sidestepped this issue by generating mammoth genre playlists to serve as my personally-themed radio stations, each with hundreds or even thousands of the finest albums of their respective genre.

But it was this fresh start in the last few weeks that inspired my refinement of those playlists into distinct album libraries which would zero in on a specific moment of music history.  The aim was to bring a semblance of order to the hundred thousand plus tracks in my file library and to give me a set of starting points to really explore the neglected and unplayed folders of my drive.

I’m proud to declare that this evening, the project was a complete success.  I’ve created 100 all-killer-no-filler libraries showcasing each of the largest collections in my catalog.  I found that 68% (9,300 albums) of my music library fell neatly into one of these 100 categories.

The following is an index of these 100 playlists, sorted by number of albums.  This roster effectively summarizes and gives order to what is otherwise an insurmountable archive.  I’m going to enjoy exploring these playlists throughout the fall and into the winter months.

Playlists by Descending Size (in # of Albums)

Playlists with 1000+ Albums
Midnight on Mars: Ambient Worlds – 2,986 Ambient Albums
Hearts of Space: Innerspace Journey – 30 Year Complete 1,069 Broadcast Archive

Playlists with 200-999 Albums
Kelly Watch the Stars – 607 Classic Albums of the Downtempo Genre
Mentalism: Psybient Dreams – 545-Disc Archive of Psybient Electronic Music
Echowaves: Intergalactic Radio – 450 Legendary Krautrock Albums
The Shape of Jazz to Come – 387 Modern Jazz LPs (1959-1979)
Just Gimme Indie Rock!: 379 of the Greatest Indie Rock Albums (1988-2014)
Underworld: Dark & Long – A 35 Year Chronology – 339 Albums from Screen Gemz to Eno & Hyde
Old Time Radio: Dragnet (298 Broadcasts)
Salute to Birdland – 259 Classic Jazz Records (1924-1958)
FAX +49-69450464 Label Archive: The Legacy of Pete Namlook 254 Disc Catalog
We Came to Funk Ya – A 227 Album Funk Odyssey
Ninja Tune: Turn Me Loose – 204 LP Archive of Ninja Tune Records

Playlists with 100-199 Albums
Days of the Lords: 195 Album Archive of Ethereal & New Wave, Gothic Rock, Minimal Wave, Post-Punk, Jangle & Noise Pop (1976-1997)
The KLF: Abandon All Art Now – 189-disc Catalog of the Justified Ancients of MuMu
Shirt Tail Stomp: Swing & The Big Bands – 181 LP and Broadcast Archive
Tangerine Dream: Journey Through a Burning Brain – 178-Disc Chronology of TD & its Side Projects
Old Time Radio: The Adventures of Superman (171 Broadcasts)
Night Lines – 140 Album Archive of Deep House Sessions
Light Patterns – Jazz of Tomorrow – 139 Future Jazz Albums
Heaven or Las Vegas: 30 Years of Dream Pop & Ethereal Wave (134 Album Archive)
Max & Dima: Sapovnela Studio Sessions – 131 Deep House DJ Sets
Nurse with Wound: Walking Like Shadow – 127 Album Discography
Old Time Radio: X Minus One – 122 Broadcasts (1955-1973)
Deutsche Grammophon: 111 Years of DG (111-Disc Box Set)
Lemon Jelly : Going Places – 110-Disc Catalog of All Things Jelly
Miles Davis: The Complete Prestige & Columbia Recordings – 109 LPs released between 1955-2014
Daft Punk: Daftendirekt – 104-LP Chronology
Flea Market Funk – 100-Disc Archive of Funky Soul & Rare Groove
Frank Zappa: Shut Up ‘n Play Yer Guitar – 100-disc Catalog (1966-2006)
RYM’s Top 100 Downtempo & Trip Hop Albums

Playlists with 75-99 Albums
Franz Liszt: Lisztomania! – 97 LP Archive
Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser – 97 LP Discography
Good Looking Records: 94-Disc Archive of LTJ Bukem’s Intelligent D’n’B Label
Franklin Mint: The 100 Greatest Classical Recordings – 88 LP Catalog
Somnium – 87-Album Library of Pure Drone Music
Aphex Twin: We are the Music Makers – 86 Album Chronology of Richard D James
The Electronic Brain: Future Sounds of London & Amorphous Androgynous 86-Disc Complete Chronology
Mike Oldfield: Tricks of the Light – 86 LP Discography (1973-2010)
Jimmy Smith: Jazz Scattin’ – 85 LP Discography
Cinematic Soundscapes – 83-Disc Library of Music for Films
Old Time Radio: CBS Radio Mystery Theater – The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (83-Disc Box Set)
Klaus Schulze: I Sing the Body Electric – 81 LP Discography
Ludwig Van Beethoven: The Bicentennial Collection – 80 LP Complete Works
Old Time Radio: BBC Radio – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (79-Disc Set)
Vangelis: Poem Symphonique – 77 Album Discographic Archive
Old Time Radio: The Shadow – 75 Original Broadcasts (1937-1954)

Playlists with 50-74 Albums
Sun Ra: Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy – 74-Disc Catalog (1957-1994)
John Cage: A Chance Operation – 73 LP Discography
2manyDJS – This is Radio Soulwax: 72 Mashup Sessions
Brian Eno: Strange Overtones – 70 LP Discography (1972-2015)
Peter Gabriel: Here Comes the Flood – 68-Disc Catalog (1977-2010)
Ornette Coleman: Change of the Century – 66 LP Discography
Prayer for the Paranoid: 66 Albums from a Decade of Shoegaze (1993-2003)
Muslimgauze: The Broken Radio of Istanbul Station – 63 Album Discography
The Piano Has Been Drinking: The Complete Recordings of Tom Waits – 63 LPs (1973-2011)
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: Just Coolin’ – 62 Album Discography
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Kontakte – 61 LP Archive
Old Time Radio: The Complete Sherlock Holmes Audiobooks (Unabridged 60-Disc Set)
Philip Glass: Glasspieces – 60 LP Discography of Operas, Symphonies, Sonatas and Scores
Cornelius: Out of Phase – 60 Album Discography
Spacemind: Wonderland Syndrome – 60 Psybient DJ sets
Cafe del Mar: Step into the Sunshine – 59-Disc Archive of the Sounds of Ibiza
Throbbing Gristle: 555 Jazz Funk Greats – 56 Album Discography
DJ Food – Solid Steel – 55 LPs of Classic Jazz Breaks
Herbie Hancock: One FInger Snap – 52 Album Discography
Ash Ra Tempel & Manuel Gottsching: Deep Distance – A 40 Year, 50 LP Chronology
Houdini’s Musical Box: Early Experimental Electronic Music (1940-1976) – 50 LP Archive
Porcupine Tree: Synesthesia – 50 Album Discography (1983-2013)

Playlists with 10-24 Albums
From Murmur to Monster: 21 Key Albums of the Jangle Pop Era (1983-1994)
Old Time Radio: Orson Welles Mercury Theater 1938 (20 Program Broadcasts)
Philips Prospective 21e siecle Label 18-LP Archive (1956-1972)
RYM: Round Midnight – 18 of the Highest-Rated Cool Jazz Records
Deutsche Grammophon Avant Garde: 17-LP Complete Recordings (1967-1971)
Braindance: A 15-LP IDM Chronology of Warp Records
The Plastikman Arkives: 1993-2010 (14-Disc Box Set)
Jellyroll Radio – Ragtime, Dixieland & Bluegrass Standards (13-Disc Catalog)
Claude Debussy – 12-Disc Complete Piano and Orchestral Works
Kompakt Records: Cirrus Minor – 12 Years of Ambient Music (2001-2013)

A Thought Piece on Retiring My Physical Library

I’ve had a humbling revelation, and I’m honored to be able to share it with my audience.

A few days ago, I prepared multiple discographic digital FLAC archives to upload to the finest private tracker on the net.  I posted an inquiry to the moderators of the site – asking if there was any way to preserve the folder structures of the megatorrents I’d created thusly:

– Studio Albums
– Live Albums
– Soundtracks
– Remasters
– Compilations
– Singles
– Solo Projects
(etc)

I had tagged each disc’s %album% and named each corresponding folder with:
[%YEAR%] %TITLE%.  

My core belief was that artists and labels should be experienced in the full context of their discographies.  I’d labored to create resources for those researching the evolution of a composer’s sound and to help listeners track the development of a genre through the chronology of releases on its primary record label.

But the harsh realization came when it was explained to me that the system in place by the tracker with which I’d elected to share my files already had a superior archival method in place.  Namely – all artists’ work is auto-populated in chronological order of release, and sub-categorized by commercial recordings, live recordings, singles, etc.

But more importantly, the site’s torrents grow better with each upload.  Users can choose to download one album or all albums at any bitrate they desire, whether 192CBR, 320VBR, or FLAC.  And as members upload new releases or superior torrents (such as FLAC + .log), the previous entries are automatically replaced.

The site maintains a strict file naming convention and organizational structure, which was the reason I joined their network in the first place.  Shockingly, this realization shattered the labor of love I’d be building for the past five years.

My local archive was old hat.  It was no longer relevant.  The new system already in place is an ever-evolving organism, superior to my method in nearly every way.  I was old and in the way.

Recursively archived torrent systems composed of magnetic links comprise the greatest library of media, literature and human knowledge ever assembled.  The user-constructed collage system of this particular tracker allows members to collaborate and design maps to help new listeners navigate and discover these wonderful recordings.

And perhaps most importantly, this magnificent system will survive long after my modest archive has long been forgotten.

Will I stop collecting records?  Surely not.  Though I will likely be more conscious and selective about which gems I select for my personal archive going forward.  As an independent archivist, I will adapt and re-direct my efforts toward perfect, FLAC + log archives of exceptional and rare recordings.

Please do not misinterpret my words – by no means am I abandoning my life-long affinity for dusty old bookshops and record libraries.  I am only shifting my methods for the sake of practicality and preservation.

My goal has always been to archive for the enlightenment of the generations to come, for the sake of great music that should never be forgotten.  This goal remains unchanged.  It is simply the means to that end which begs revision.

I welcome your thoughts.  Thank you, friends for letting me share.

dusty-library

Published in: on January 26, 2014 at 10:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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