Digital Audio Collection

View of a bookshelf

The Digital Audio Collection aims to preserve a broad spectrum of sounds to reflect the UK’s audio publishing industry.

Published date:

Background

Until recently, published sound has been acquired by the British Library as physical objects, via voluntary deposit agreements with record labels. However, the transition to file-based distribution, coupled with the emergence of many different platforms and services offering sound recordings, requires a different approach. 

Part of the Save our Sounds programme, the Digital Audio Collection project is designed to address this. Its primary aim is to acquire, for long term preservation and access, a broad coverage of audio to create a representative document of the UK’s audio publishing, underpinned by widespread voluntary deposit arrangements. 

The project

To achieve this, the project has the following objectives:

  1. Developing an integrated digital music acquisition system. This will deliver a largely automated service for high-volume file-based releases from the traditional industry’s digital supply chain, as well as a manual submission mechanism for smaller-scale file-based published output. 
  2. Developing models for engaging with record and audio industry bodies, companies, labels, producers and artists to increase reach for voluntary deposit.
  3. Engaging with external stakeholders for exchange of knowledge and experience in relation to metadata.

While the project focuses on file-based output, it recognises the need to continue acquiring physical items. For example, CDs, vinyl and compact cassettes continue to be released in the file-based context and many of these physical releases offer added value through detailed notes and special packaging.

Furthermore, while the project concerns the UK audio industry and ‘published’ output, it recognises that the Library will continue to acquire international publications, as well as acquiring and creating file-based unique or ‘unpublished’ recordings. Collection overviews are available on our Sound subject page.

The project began officially in October 2015 with an analysis of the UK’s recording industry landscape.

Blog posts

Putting 'AIDS: The Unheard Tapes' in context

Monday, June 27, 2022

Mary Stewart, Lead Curator of Oral History, gives more information on the interviews used in a new BBC documentary series. Broadcast tonight on BBC2 is the first in a three-part documentary series entitled AIDS: The Unheard Tapes (27 June, 9.30pm...

Recording of the week: Sharing Somali sounds and stories

Monday, June 27, 2022

This week's selection comes from Emma Brinkhurst, Learning and Engagement Coordinator. As Learning and Engagement Coordinator for the British Library’s Unlocking Our Sound Heritage programme, a highlight of my role has been working in partnership with Camden Somali Cultural Centre...

Recording of the week: Footsteps on gravel

Monday, June 20, 2022

This week’s post comes from Steve Cleary, Lead Curator of Literary and Creative Recordings. The tape box in the image above measures 90 mm x 90 mm. Inside, as you can see, is a short loop of tape. This is...

Recording of the week: More than a headteacher

Monday, June 13, 2022

This week's selection comes from Sandra Agard, Learning Facilitator. 'More than a headteacher' is how cousins Michelle Campbell-Davies and Rachel Clarke describe Betty Campbell, or Nan, as they knew her, in their chat recorded for The Listening Project to mark...

More blog posts

Projects

Save our Sounds

Save our Sounds is our programme to preserve the nation’s sound heritage.

National Radio Archive

We aim to create a digital radio archive which will preserve a representative proportion of ongoing UK radio output.

Directory of UK Sound Collections

The British Library has created a directory of UK sound collections

Unlocking Our Sound Heritage

Unlocking our Sound Heritage is a UK-wide project that will help save the nation’s sounds and open them up to everyone.

All projects