Universal Music Group donates Archive to Library of Congress

Universal Music Group, the largest music conglomerate in the United States, has donated a collection of approximately 200,000 metal, glass and lacquer master discs dating between 1926 and 1948 to the Library of Congress.
– Matthew Perpetua, Rolling Stone, January 10, 2011

Ruth Etting recorded mostly for Columbia Records, which is now owned by Sony – so this news item doesn’t affect most of her records, but it may affect a few songs! Universal Music started as a branch of Universal Pictures, and Ruth made a couple of films for Universal, including Gift of Gab in 1934. Additionally, she also recorded for Decca Records in 1936-37, and that label was later merged with several other labels, and eventually folded into Universal Music Group. So it’s entirely possible that some Ruth Etting music may be included in the donation.

The article in Rolling Stone goes on to say that while the Library of Congress will get custody of the physical master discs, UMG will retain the copyright – so UMG really isn’t losing any potential income – they’re just handing over the masters to be archived by an entity devoted to preserving historical documents. Good deal!

And perhaps even more interesting, the Library of Congress “will soon begin the process of digitizing the music directly from the master discs, which Universal may eventually issue as commercial releases.” It’s an exciting development, and good news for lovers of vintage music!

There are currently four major record labels – Sony, EMI/Warner Music Group, BMG, and Universal Music Group. And of those UMG is the largest, so perhaps where they lead, the others will follow?

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