Joe D'Ambrosio: Thoughts on Archiving

Blogs and Articles

This blog is part of Iron Mountain Media & Archive Services’ “Protecting Legacies” series, featuring guest authors’ perspectives on archiving in pro audio. Joe D’Ambrosio, CEO and founder of Joe D’Ambrosio Management, joins us as guest author for this blog.

Joe D'Ambrosio | CEO & Founder of Joe D'Ambrosio Management
Joe D'Ambrosio
CEO & Founder | Joe D'Ambrosio Management
March 8, 20227 mins
Joe D'Ambrosio Thoughts on Archiving
Joe D’Ambrosio is the CEO and founder of Joe D’Ambrosio Management, a talent management company that for over two decades has represented leading producers, engineers, mixers, arrangers, composers, songwriters, executives and musicians.
Joe D'Ambrosio

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Archiving and preservation have become buzz words in the industry in the last several years mainly for two reasons: firstly, there are new revenue opportunities aplenty as archived material can be repurposed in new presentation formats; and secondly, the recording formats themselves have changed so rapidly over the years that it is easy for a master to fall into obscurity. Proper archiving and preservation help ensure that the assets are maintained in an organized and future-proof way while guaranteeing that our recorded history doesn’t get lost.

Setting aside the “legacy” material for a second, let’s shift to music generated from present-day sessions. It is paramount to keep accurate records of all new content. During a session, nobody wants to stop the proceedings to label tracks, back up files, log players and assistant engineers, etc., but you need to find the time, even if it’s directly after the session, to do so! Back up your masters, yes, but also back up all the multi-tracks and stems that are generated. No amount of backup is too much backup. 

I have been fortunate to work with some of the best pros in the business, and, for the most part, they place great value in the archiving and preservation process. Yet I have heard horror stories about losing “takes,” accidentally erasing tracks, or going back to look for files in an archive and they are just not there. This can happen to the best of them, but if you are careful and built redundancy into your process, you minimize the risk. 

Recently, we were working with a legacy artist whose label wanted to remix classic material for the Dolby Atmos format. We went to uncover the original master tapes, and they were missing the material we needed. We were able to contact a member of the original production team and gain their trust. Luckily, they were able to share their backup with us, and it saved the day. Now, of course some artists and labels might not be comfortable with producers and engineers duping their own copy of things, but that’s not the point. The point is, in this case, redundancy saved the day!

I get a little scared these days with everything being on hard drives. I remind my clients constantly: make backups, make backups of your backups, make safeties. Despite what some people feel, hard drives DO fail and get damaged all the time. But occasionally there will come a time for us to go back to an older project, and an engineer will say, “oh, I had that on a hard drive, but after a few years I wiped the drive so I could re-use it for another project.” They think it’s not their duty to be the archivist – they think it’s the duty of the artist or the label. And they’re not wrong, exactly, but again I urge you: preserve everything you can. Create a system that works for you, where there is no doubt that your work, and the work of those who rely on you, is being backed up in a reasonable yet comprehensive way. 

And one more tip I tell my clients: backing up the recording, mixing and mastering is important, but maybe equally as important is labeling things – and labeling them correctly so anyone looking at the track sheets or tape box can easily understand what is where. Going back, finding things and labeling all the elements when it’s all fresh is the difference between truly preserving something for posterity versus keeping an archive of an unwieldy, confusing mess (It might as well be lost to history at that point).