Music Archives Stuck in the Mid-90s? The Grammy Foundation Can Help

The Grammy Foundation recently issued a call for RFPs for funding of up to $20,000 to organizations and individuals working to research the "impact of music on the human condition." The grants, with funding from the Recording Academy, are spread across two categories: preservation implementation (with grants up to $20,000) and planning, assessment, and/or consultation (with grants up to $5,000).

These are tremendously important grants because they speak to some of the fundamental challenges facing music archivists everywhere. In order to contextualize these challenges, we'd like to present the following analogy. Let's say you're a movie buff. Long ago, in the way-distant past, VCRs were introduced and, naturally, you invested your time and efforts in VHS cassettes. However, it didn't take long for this medium to become obsolete. You threw out your cassettes and started buying DVDs. Then, lo and behold, DVDs started giving way to streaming media, and so on.

It's the classic example of trying to keep up with ever-changing technology, and it speaks to what music archivists are up against. Starting almost 20 years ago, the archiving space enthusiastically embraced emerging digital technology, particularly in the form of the CD-R. They transferred analog recordings to the medium and, over time, amassed an impressive library of CD-R recordings. There were just two problems. Firstly, CD-Rs don't age well. The disc itself deteriorates, it gets scratched, and the music itself skips. And secondly, technology evolved and the medium itself quickly became obsolete.

As a result, hundreds of music archivists everywhere are faced with libraries of rapidly-aging CD-Rs, basements full of dust-covered analog tapes, and no clear strategy for effectively archiving, cataloging, and preserving the material.

Of course, many music archival operations are struggling to modernize their operations. But in this case, applicants need to do far more than simply show the Grammy Foundation that their operations are stuck in the mid-90s. The foundation will reward applicants who plan to archive material that explores things like "the study of the effects of music on mood, cognition, and healing; the medical and occupational well-being of music professionals; and the creative process underlying music." Priority will be given to projects with strong methodological design as well those designed to address an important research question.

Letters of Inquiry must be received no later than October 1, 2014. Upon review, selected applicants will be invited to submit full proposals.