On Tuesday night, as part of the Friend of the Libraries Lecture Series at the University of Toronto, a panel discussion was held at Innis Town Hall under the banner “Preserving Popular Music in Canada” featuring Alex Lifeson (Rush), Lorraine Segato (The Parachute Club), music historian Rob Bowman and writer/author Martin Melhuish.
Moderated by Canadian Broadcasters Hall of Fame member Denise Donlon, this evening of lively discussion on the importance of popular music to the creative life of Canada, and the need to preserve the archival record of its creators and distributors, drew a sizeable contingent of music industry VIPs including Robert Ott (ole), Steve Kane (Warner Music Canada), Let Me Be Frank music publisher Frank Davies, Ross Reynolds (National Music Centre), former CMRRA President David Basskin, David Wood (SOCAN), Pegi Cecconi (SRO/Anthem), Karen Bliss (Billboard), Richard Flohil, producer Terry Brown, Andy Curran (ole Music), Alex Andronache (Metalworks), vocalist Roy Kenner, and blues performer Paul James.
Following a welcome by Anne Dondertman, Associate Chief Librarian for Special Collections and Director, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, where a wine and cheese reception was held following the main event, Brock Silversides, Head of Media Commons, took to the podium to explain why archival collections are crucial for true scholarly research – how and why a musical production was created on a personal and technological level, how it was funded, marketed and disseminated, how it was received and how it affected musical trends as well as the industry and society.
The list of collections currently held at Media Commons is impressive and includes those of Alert Music, True North Records, Wellesley Sound, Blue Rodeo, Cowboy Junkies, Triumph, Anne Murray, The Constantines, SOCAN, North by Northeast Music Festival and Martin Melhuish, one of the evening’s panelists. There are also archives of such individuals and companies as Moses Znaimer and CityTV/MuchMusic; Insight Production Co., producer of the JUNO Awards; advertising producers Syd Kessler and Jody Colero; photographers John Reeves, known for his portraits of jazz musicians, and Paul Till, who specialized in punk and new wave musicians; the photograph collection of Toronto’s NOW Magazine; and the Jeff Healey 78 rpm record collection.
At the negotiating stage are collections from Andy Curran (Coney Hatch), Cal Dodd, Roy Kenner, King Biscuit Boy, Paul James, John Welsman, Mendelson Joe, Metalworks Studio and Scott Welch, among other endeavours, former manager of Alanis Morissette.
“This past year, we have put considerable effort into getting a handle on the quantity and nature of the material we have – in total Media Commons has over one million items, in 104 audio-visual formats,” explained Silversides. “We have commissioned a report by a consulting company called AV Preserve which has helped us formulate the archival technical specs we require to follow industry and library standards, and set priorities according to material life spans. And, the library now has a digital preservation librarian.
“We have also carried out a number of pilot projects whereby we have sent varied batches of our AV material to a selection of vendors to determine pricing and set up procedures. We now have a much better idea of how massive a job we have ahead and the best ways of doing it. And, one way or another, it has to be done.”