Have you ever bought a deluxe version of a classic album? Maybe it was called the collectors edition or the 50th anniversary edition or some such title?
I’ve bought The Beatles 50th anniversary releases of Sgt Pepper, the White Album, Abbey Road and Let It Be and there’s one thing that all of them contain – a load of outtakes or different versions of the previously released songs.
It’s true that most people won’t be particularly interested in hearing these outtakes and it’s also true that these albums are being released to preserve copyrights but I wonder if today’s artists, especially the DIY musicians, will have outtakes that people might listen to in the future.
The Beatles, and every artist before the invention and use of computers to record on, used tape machines. Although these tape machines grew increasingly sophisticated and were able to record multiple tracks they were essentially a single use medium. If you continued to record over and over the tape would eventually start to break down and would in the end disintegrate completely.
So artists used separate tapes to record demos etc. The Beatles used to record everything they did in the studio even when they were messing around. And they did a lot of messing around, go look at the Get Back series to see that.
But these days musicians record directly onto a computer. Using a computer you can record over and over and over on the same track or tracks. You can, if you want, add literally thousands of tracks on one piece of music. And when you click Save the computer simply over-writes what was there before. In other words it over-writes the outtakes.
Personally I save every session of every song as a separate file on my computer, see my article Anatomy of a Song. But I bet most musicians don’t. And if they don’t they are losing forever the outtakes of their finished songs.
You and they may not care but for fans like me we’re going to lose some great listening pleasure in the future and that would be a shame. So, musicians, please save your work in separate files because in 50 years it may be worth a fortune to you.