Iron Mountain Entertainment Services: Guardians of Our Musical Heritage

The recording industry looks to Iron Mountain’s advanced best practices for preserving, archiving and, in many cases, restoring some of the world’s greatest recorded musical works.

What do your father’s favorite opera album, your disco cassettes in the attic, and your kid’s video game soundtrack all have in common? They all very likely benefit from the technology expertise and best practices of Iron Mountain Entertainment Services.

Keeping such audio assets safe for the enjoyment of even the most discerning ears­­—no matter their vintage—requires a masterful combination of best practices, leading-edge technology tools and expert services. With these tools in place, the recording industry can preserve, archive and, when called for, even revive these master recordings—and do so with the quality that sophisticated Digital Age consumers demand.

A Valued Partnership: Now Stronger than Ever

“Our name continues to surface as the de facto physical and digital archive to the music industry,” says Jeff Anthony, vice president of Iron Mountain Entertainment Services, which serves all the major labels and many independents in archiving their physical and digital audio assets.

For nearly two decades, the Entertainment Services division has shared its expertise with producers, engineers and other recording professionals as a trusted partner—preserving more than 22 million audio and video assets in the process.

“Our name continues to surface as the de facto physical and digital archive to the music industry.”
–Jeff Anthony, vice president, Iron Mountain Entertainment Services

Most recently, Entertainment Services amplified its place in the preservation and protection movement by renewing its partnership with the Producers & Engineers Wing® of The Recording Academy®, the organization known for the GRAMMY Awards®.

Under this far-reaching alliance with a prominent and powerful media organization, Iron Mountain shares its considerable expertise in archiving, preservation and digitization with the P&E Wing’s more than 6,000 producers, engineers, re-mixers, manufacturers and technologists.

In addition to its ongoing dialogue with the organization, Iron Mountain Entertainment Services will sponsor selected P&E Wing professional development events. It most recently hosted a panel on recording-studio best practices in Memphis at the Stax Music Academy, an offshoot of the legendary soul music recording studio/label.

Farming for the Future

Before entering into the agreement, Maureen Droney, senior executive director of the P&E Wing, toured Entertainment Services’ four-acre Hollywood complex, which includes a 200,000-square-foot archive, data center and digital studio. During her visit, Droney was particularly impressed with Entertainment Services’ 10,000-square-foot digital studio.

 “Until I met Jeff [Anthony] and toured the facility, I didn’t realize the full extent of what Iron Mountain actually does,” Droney says. “I’ve always known that Iron Mountain is the ‘gold standard’ for best practices, but I didn’t realize the depth and reach of their amazing work.”

Iron Mountain has invested several million dollars in its digital infrastructure. At its core, is a 2PB (petabyte) Digital Content Repository (DCR), more commonly known as a server farm, where recording clients store digital masters for retrieval on demand. In context, 2PBs equal the sum of the information found within all research libraries at U.S. colleges and universities. Additionally, 32 PB of near line robotic storage is available to assist in the long term archiving of all types of entertainment assets (motion picture film, audio, video, graphics and pure data). 

“I’ve always known that Iron Mountain is the ‘gold standard’ for best practices, but I didn’t realize the depth and reach of their amazing work.”
–Maureen Droney, senior executive director, Producers & Engineers Wing

“These digital files can be preserved indefinitely or until the labels decide to access them for distribution on, for example, iTunes® or Spotify®,” says Anthony, referring to Apple’s digital music store and the rapidly growing subscription service.

Protection and Preservation: Always and Forever

The best way to preserve a master recording? Make sure it’s well cared for from the start. That’s where Iron Mountain comes into play. Entertainment Services borrows from a 60-year heritage of respected best practices in records management, including unrivaled levels of secure storage (including underground, climate-controlled and guarded facilities) and ironclad chain of custody processes to make its digital magic happen.

Chain of custody is a key value of Entertainment Services. For the past decade, the division has offered recording labels complete chain of custody assurance throughout the stages of master recording, archiving and retrieval. As part of this service, valuable physical masters—copies of which are also electronically stored in Iron Mountain server farms—never leave Iron Mountain’s premises. Previously, they were sent offsite for digital conversion.

Entertainment Services borrows from a 60-year heritage of respected records management best practices, including unrivaled levels of secure storage and ironclad chain of custody processes, to make its digital magic happen.

Now it’s no longer necessary for an attendant to go to the vault, pull a cartridge or tape off the shelf (robotics handle this now) and ship it out to another facility for conversion. The totally onsite process gives the owners of valuable recordings peace of mind, as they know they’re protected against mishaps in transit. “The tapes really never see the light of day,” notes Anthony.

Restoration: Rust Never Sleeps

Iron Mountain is prepared for whatever obsolete format might come its way as it forges ahead in the name of audio preservation. “Our vast collection of machines can play every format,” says Anthony. Iron Mountain can even breathe new life into the earliest wire recordings. (Wire, invented in the late 19th century, was a precursor in some ways to magnetic tape technology.) The Entertainment Services team is constantly looking for all kinds of antiquated “legacy machines,” as well as spare parts for its hardware collection, known in-house as “the museum.”

But even more recent digital and magnetic formats can be still plagued by so-called “data rot,” including tape degradation and melting optical disc layers. The Entertainment Services team can restore and preserve the clarity of even a century-old master recording, removing any “ticks, pops and hums,” or something more recent. 

Outsourcing Wizardry

What’s behind the recent deluge of deluxe CD box sets, and even vinyl? To encourage music lovers—especially audiophiles—to buy (or re-buy) previous releases, labels typically augment the audio quality of the material, sometimes in conjunction with newly discovered studio outtakes and concert recordings. This model has been applied to CDs, vinyl and digital downloads, all of which require a particular remastering process available from Iron Mountain Entertainment Services.

Sometimes even newer digital recordings can benefit from some technical wizardry. In fact, recent advancements in this area make it possible for “an iPod® track to approach the in-studio experience,” says Anthony.

“We’re using ultra-high sampling rates. We guarantee zero bit-rate loss for 50 years,” says Claus Trelby, general manager of studio operations at Iron Mountain. Translation? That remastered recording of a live 1961 bebop session will sound just as good in 2061 as it does today, because its audio quality will not deteriorate in the next 50 years.

The Grammy Museum: You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Grammy Museum

In addition to its renewed alliance with the P&E Wing, Iron Mountain Entertainment Services is leveraging its considerable archiving and digitization expertise by supporting the Recording Academy’s Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. As part of a 10-year commitment, the group will be creating video and audio archives of the Museum’s series of daily in-house programs. These include live concerts, interviews and intriguing oral histories from musicians and experts.

Grammy Museum Executive Director Bob Santelli is enthusiastic about the Iron Mountain partnership. “When we opened the Grammy Museum three years ago, we didn’t have a permanent collection,” he explains. “Our major stumbling block was that we didn’t have the room to store it, nor did we have a controlled environment—including the right temperature, humidity and level of security.

“Right now there’s no access to any of this. But six months from now, thanks to Iron Mountain’s generosity, there will be,” Santelli adds.

Thanks to its new alliance with the Grammy Museum, Iron Mountain Entertainment Services is ensuring that future generations will be able to share our love of and respect for the music industry’s greatest works. By introducing the recording industry to its best practices in restoration, preservation and digitization, Iron Mountain is helping some of the recording industry’s most precious artistic moments withstand the test of time.

Mining Treasures from Grammy’s Attic

Besides curating a permanent digital collection for the Grammy Museum, Iron Mountain Entertainment Services will also give some serious lift to the Museum’s new Asset Discovery & Development department. This area has been established to help curate the contents of musicians’ estates.

As part of the process, the museum staff will carefully examine and inventory artists’ personal effects, including performance costumes, instruments, musical arrangements and other valuable assets needing the preservationist’s touch.

“With Iron Mountain’s help, we’ll be creating an inventory of these assets,” says Tracy Strann, director of external affairs at the Grammy Museum.

With Iron Mountain, the Museum plans to digitize ephemeral objects like handwritten lyrics, posters and ticket stubs. “We wouldn’t have the ability store these artifacts without the assistance of Iron Mountain,” Strann adds.

Future-Proof Your Assets

With Iron Mountain’s Entertainment Services, you’ll be able to protect and preserve your organization’s valuable media assets from the ravages of light, climate, dust and other contaminants.

When you take advantage of Iron Mountain’s industry-standard best practices and unparalleled infrastructure, you’re putting your precious audio assets in expert hands—literally. You can:

  • Secure your media in a climate-controlled facility, readily accessible to major domestic and international entertainment markets.
  • Trust our team of dedicated, fully screened professionals who come from the industry and understand the challenges and intricacies of the entertainment world.
  • Let us help you monetize your assets and keep your catalog meaningful and up to date through our full complement of digital services.

Whether you want to archive your audio, video, or motion picture film; duplicate your master recordings; or transfer analog files into digital format, you’ll get a process and solution that’s as unique and personal as the artistic works you’re preserving.

Do you have questions about Iron Mountain’s Entertainment ServicesContact us and you’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.

Related Content

Case Study: Trans World Entertainment is Able to Recreate Proprietary Software

The (Not So) Fabulous Future of Portable Physical Media and Dedicated Players and What it Means to Us

Proper Film Preservation and Storage: Save the Vinegar for the Fish and Chips

A Short History of Copy Control, or The Current Health & Whereabouts of DRM