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Archive of Contemporary Music (ARC)


The ARChive of Contemporary Music (ARC) is a not-for-profit archive, music library and research center located in New York City since 1985.

ARC contains more than 2.25 million sound recordings (22 + million songs). ARC preserves two copies of each recording, in all known formats, and has electronically catalogued more than 300,000 sound recordings – more than any other public, university or private library. ARC also houses more than three million pieces of attendant support material including photographs, videos, DVDs, books, magazines, press kits, sheet music, ephemera and memorabilia.

The value of ARC’s collection is not only in the rareness of many of its recordings, but in the breadth, size and organization of the collection. For every signed and unique copy of an early Rolling Stones LP, there are hundreds of relevant, formative, relatively unknown recordings that contributed to its creation, and thousands that benefit from its existence.

The ARChive collects, preserves and provides information on the popular music of all cultures and races throughout the world from 1950 to the present. The ARC grows daily as hundreds of record companies, publishers, distributors, collectors, artists and music fans from around the world donate new materials to the ARC. In addition to sound recordings the ARChive actively collects all books, magazines, videos, films, photographs, press kits, newspapers clippings, memorabilia and ephemera relating to the history of popular music. ARC also maintains a variety of informational databases other than those on recordings and books, notably its Music Index of 52,000+ people working in the music industry.

The ARChive was established because for decades the recording industry had neglected the preservation of its own heritage, and over the years many irreplaceable recordings and artifacts have been misplaced or destroyed. Even as the new medium of CDs placed many out of print recordings back in circulation, many re-issues have different or truncated material, and many CDs themselves are already out of print. When we began the recording industry was doing little to preserve its own heritage, as the film industry recently did after realizing that nearly half of all films produced before 1950 have been lost. The 21st century heralds the demise of the object in any form; even more reason for the scrupulous preservation of original releases of musical works.

In general libraries and sound archives have also been slow or resistant to preserving emerging popular music. Most considered popular music “commercial” and therefore less worthy of saving–or more able to survive on its own. The ARChive is America’s first non-affiliated popular music archive. We believe that all forms of popular music — jazz, be-bop, bluegrass, country, rock, rap, blues, enka, reggae, calypso, zydeco, zouk and countless others — are important culturally. Not only do they entertain, they reveal to the world a great deal about a people and their values.

The ARChive of Contemporary Music was founded by B. George, the current director, and David Wheeler (1957-1997). The collection is maintained by Senior Archivist Fred Patterson. Archivist in charge of our book scanning projects is Quinn MacRorie. Those pesky day to day things are done by volunteers from the community and interns from many different schools and universities. Bill Levay is our newest archivist and tech person.

Mission statement: To collect, preserve and provide information on the popular music of all cultures and races throughout the world, produced from 1945 to the present.



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