From Print to Digital: First Steps in Collecting Digital Music Publications in UK Legal Deposit Libraries - British Library Research Repository
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From Print to Digital: First Steps in Collecting Digital Music Publications in UK Legal Deposit Libraries

4 November 2020


As a result of the 2013 Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations, the UK’s legal deposit libraries acquired two large collections of digital music publications in PDF format: 43,165 from Music Sales and 13,167 from Faber Music. These constitute their back catalogues for the period 2013 to 2018. This paper considers the genres of music that were collected, the relationship between printed and digital output and intended users.

The increasing prevalence of digital publication in the UK’s music publishing industry was evident, with 99% of the content collected from these firms in this period in digital format. The ‘near duplication’ of content through the production of variant editions contributed greatly to the volume of output. Although 71% of content was popular music, other musical genres were also represented. Most of the publications were intended for performance rather than academic study. Despite the tendency to reprint extracts from printed publications digitally, there is currently little potential to switch UK music publishers from print to digital deposit.

To truly reflect the nation’s cultural heritage, future collecting will need to embrace the breadth of the UK’s digital music publishing industry. Legal deposit libraries will need to collect publications with accompanying audio-visual content, those in multiple parts, proprietary music notation file formats and interactive content delivered via apps. This will require workflows that can accommodate publishers producing a handful of publications and those publishing at scale. The sustainability of collecting relies on close cooperation between libraries, composers, publishers, distributors, aggregators and music notation software providers.


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