As a musician I’ve wondered what my legacy will be. Will anyone remember or care that I worked so hard at music for so many years after I’ve gone? I’m hoping that at least my kids will remember and care about my musical legacy after I’m gone. So what is something concrete that you can leave behind? I believe that the recordings that you should be making over the course of your career will be the biggest evidence that you really gave music your best shot. A good body of recorded work will document your life as a musician in a way that nothing else will. It will show your progression from beginner to being the best you could possibly be. A good body of recorded work will bring you a lot of enjoyment as you get older and want to take a trip down memory lane to see where you’ve come from as well. I know listening to my old recordings makes me feel really good about where I am now.
If you’ve been reading Live Musician Central for long you know that I’m very big on recording. I believe that recording yourself is one of the most important things you can do. I’ve learned more about where I need to improve as a musician from listening to recordings than I have doing any other musical activity. I started recording myself right at the beginning of my career many years ago. Needless to say I have amassed quite a collection of my own work. I have been lucky to not lose very many of my earliest recordings although I have lost some. There are a few recordings I made right at the very beginning of my playing career that I would love to have back. But luckily I have a lot of my early recordings and they are a cherished treasure now.
It’s extremely important that you take care of your recorded work. When I started out I was recording on cassette tapes. I was smart enough to store them properly so they survived until the digital age at which point I was able to transfer them into .wav files for safer storage on hard disc, CD and now DVD. I still keep those original cassette’s safe in case technologies improve even more and I can pull even better quality out of them. So my first tip for you is to make sure you store your recordings in a safe place and in a format that you can access easily later on. Always try to preserve the original recorded tracks in the highest quality possible. If you record in 24-bit wave files then make sure you save masters in 24-bit wave files. It’s okay to mix down to 16-bit for distribution on CD and you’ll want to save copies of those as well but be sure to save the high quality stuff as well. Keep your masters on DVD and make multiple copies.
My second tip for preserving your recordings is to give copies to your friends, family and fans. The more copies you give away the better chance you have of your recordings surviving over the years. When I record with my band all the band members get a master copy of the mixdowns which will then be stored in four separate locations. If somebody loses a disc or one gets ruined somebody else will still have a copy. It’s also a great idea to have a friend or family member store a copy of your masters. So if disaster strikes and you lose yours, then you know you’ve got a copy somewhere else. So make sure and spread your recordings around. It’s easy security for keeping your legacy alive and you can enjoy some of that legacy while you’re still around. My fans love it when I give them some fresh new material to listen to.
Finally, make sure you keep it all organized. The easiest catalog system of all is to simply put the correct date on all your recordings. That’s probably what I was weakest at when I was younger. I’d forget to date things and so now I struggle to remember when my oldest stuff was recorded. The best catalog method is to list the date the recording was made as well as where it was recorded and who is featured on the recording. I’ve recorded with a lot of different musicians and I’ve forgotten some names. So make sure you list at least the names of everyone on the recording. It’s always better to have too much information about a recording than not enough so you could even write short bio’s on all the musicians featured on a recording. It’s also a good idea to label the recordings as a practice, live show, jam or writing session. That information makes the recording more valuable as the years go by. Other information you could list is all the equipment used on the recording. Since we’re in the digital age it’s a good idea to include a text file with information about the format used for recording as well.
So there you have it, your recordings will one day be your musical legacy. So preserve, organize and distribute them. I hope my recordings and yours will survive for many years after we’re gone.