Is There Anywhere Where Music Will Last Forever? No. Here’s Why.

All things must past, including even the best musical recordings. Every single storage format invented has something mortal and finite about it. Magnetic tape dries into dust. CDs rot. Vinyl, if preserved properly, will last a very, very long time but even that plastic will degrade. And online? Nope. Wired explains why.

RECORDED MUSIC WAS once incredibly fragile. Before the days of digital music, an independent band might press only a few thousand, or even a few hundred copies of a vinyl record. Those albums only became more rare over the years as copies were scratched, broken, or thrown out. Likewise, master recordings could be damaged or lost, making the record difficult or impossible to reissue.

But today, thanks to the wonders of digitization, recordings can be backed up and saved indefinitely. When a formerly obscure band hits it big, fans can instantly find their early work, without having to hunt it down in used record stores or waiting for a reissue, thanks to streaming music services.

The trouble is that, even as music has become more durable, it has—paradoxically—also become more ephemeral. Your physical records don’t evaporate if the store you bought it from closes shop or the record label that published them goes out of business. If a streaming music company goes under, a stockpile of important cultural artifacts could go with it.

If you’re a fan of SoundCloud, you’ll want to read the rest of this.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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