Since the early 20th century millions of talented people have recorded music. Record labels stored these archives whether the artist sold well or not.
Some archives were lost to fire or flood, and many changed ownership over the years, but many still exist.
You might think Spotify, if not YouTube, gives you access to all that music these days. You’d be very wrong.
Official numbers aren’t published, but it’s been discussed in various mastering workshops that less than 50% of the analog archives have been digitized AT ALL.
If it’s never been digitized, it’s probably not on the internet. I know some people record video of an album playing and put it on youtube, but that’s a small part of the market.
The silver lining here?
If they finally digitize those analog archives they will be done in a high resolution.
Sony Music, for instance, starting digitizing their extensive back catalog at 16/44 in 1985. By 1995 they had only converted about 35% of the archive and were aware that the early converters, and the 16/44 resolution they ran at, was lacking.
So they started over. This time at 24/88. I don’t know how far they’ve gotten in the following 23 years, but I have heard it’s still less than 50% complete.
They have to put out new artists and almost all resources go to new artists and successful legacy artists, with precious little resource to this cost loser. It’s a time consuming and dangerous process to load up the old tape onto old equipment, review the old logs, and turn it into a new digital product.
You can’t give this job to an intern with a macbook!
Sadly, re-digitizing old unheard-of artists is at the bottom of their to-do list.