When the world ends, will we lose music?
A new doomsday vault could pivot this plausibly grim “yes” to a resounding “no!” as it undergoes construction near the north pole to store significant music recordings, ranging from classic Beatles hits to Australian Indigenous beats, according to an initial report from Billboard.
However, the last doomsday vault was built in a location that has since begun to thaw due to climate change, which led to suspicions of flooding, and challenging the idea of a “future proof” facility capable of safeguarding valuable information independent of the external climate.
Pop and Indigenous music could survive doomsday
A company called Elire’s Global Music Vault has tagged its new project as a “future-proof digital storage” aimed at housing music recordings for the ages, and has already opened talks with numerous technology partners like Piql, which is the Norwegian firm running the Arctic World Archive, which functions as a future-proof facility for general artifacts, like the Vatican Library manuscripts, Edvard Munch’s paintings, and Rembrandt. Earlier this year, reports surfaced that the World Archive Vault had flooded due to local thawing from climate change, but this was later refuted: The area was warming, but the vault remained dry. Piql uses a migration-less storage medium designed “to withstand the kind of extreme electromagnetic pulses from a nuclear explosion, which could permanently damage electronic equipment and play havoc with digital files,” with the dry permafrost and exceedingly low temperatures serving to sufficiently “discourage” average janes and joes from visiting the region, according to the Billboard report.
“We want to preserve the music that has shaped us as human beings and shaped our nations,” said Global Music Vault Managing Director Luke Jenkinson, who is also a managing partner at Elire, in the report. Initial deposits for the forthcoming vault are slated for Spring 2022, and will emphasize Indigenous music. Later, the company will move on to pop recordings, which will require lengthy rights proceedings on the legal side of things. On the subject of rights holders’ prospective reluctance to give their property up for storage, the vault organizers expressed their confidence that the former would comprehend the value of safeguarding their master recordings “in the best possible way,” said Swedish Composer Alfons Karabuda, who is also the president of the International Music Council.
Music vault selection could be up for a vote
“This is about safeguarding the future of music in having these archives of the past,” added Karabuda in the report. “It’s not just putting something in a drawer somewhere and keeping it for thousands of years.” Elire is also open to holding a public vote on submissions to the music vault, but it has no idea what this might look like. “We don’t want to just protect a certain genre and certain era,” said Jenkinson. “We want the nations and regions of the world to curate what music gets deposited.” This is important on many levels, not least of which because, should a nuclear apocalypse wipe out the human race, aliens (which may or may not exist) might happen upon the vault in the distant future, and incorrectly come to believe that humans had a monomaniacal love for country music. Or even something worse.
On the profit side of Elire’s venture, it aims to make money by charging individuals and corporations for depositing their master recordings in the vault. It also aims to enable access to the vault’s contents for worldwide listeners, once it acquires permissions from rights holders. In theory, this might multiply potential revenue streams for creators and musicians, who often must fight with streaming services to retain reasonable passive income from their hard-won artistic craft. “We don’t want to be another record label, and we don’t want to be another streaming service,” said Jenkinson, reading the room. “But we do want this music to be accessible and celebrated and give back to the communities that actually own it.” Hear, hear.