Do you even archive? Dublab

Welcome to the new era of our Do You Even Archive? Series. Over the next several weeks we will be talking to some of the world’s most prolific, influential and visible online radio stations to learn about how they manage and preserve their ever-growing archives of DJ mixes, live sets, and interviews.

These stations are giving underrepresented artists and DJs a platform to share their music and ideas and are documenting tidal shifts in the global cultural and societal landscape; keeping a daily record of the underground movements existing outside the lines. We think that’s something worth saving so let’s find out how they’re doing it. Part 1 (Radar Radio)

Part 2: Dublab

Collection size: 50TB

You can’t really name web radio without paying due respect to Dublab, the LA based web radio station that’s quickly approaching it’s 20th anniversary.  Built with ingenuity and DIY spirit in 1999 by Mark McNeill and John Buck, Dublab quickly became a focal point for the Southern California scene and a beacon for cash hungry investors. One of the first in the internet radio game, Dublab almost collapsed along with the dotcom bubble that helped bolster its ranks in 2001. But the station held on and continued to grow, quite astonishingly in a successful non-profit that has hubs on three continents and sports a historical roster of artists that trace the LA scene’s widely influential role in electronic music and DIY parties along with cross-cultural collaborations with the likes of Getty, MOMA, Disney, UCLA and many more.

Dublab now thrives by receiving local cultural funds and generous listener donations from around the globe. Like many web radio stations, Dublab exists to serve a community and facilitate its growth, nurturing young and old talent. So with almost 2 decades under their belt and an archive very visible on their website we wanted to find out what happens behind the scenes to kill this history alive for future generations. Executive Director Alejandro Cohen walks us through the Dublab process.

Do you make a focused and consolidated effort to keep an archive of all your shows and preserve them for the long term?
We do indeed make a very clear and focused effort to archive every single thing that goes live on our airwaves.

If you do, why do you archive and preserve your history of broadcasts?
We archive and preserve the history of broadcasts in order to have a complete back catalogue of every show and to give people around the world a chance to broaden their musical knowledge.

What type of content do you broadcast and what from this content do you archive? F.i. you broadcast audio and video but you only store the audio.
We broadcast mainly just audio. There a few shows in which there is a live visual feed along with the audio, in case we archive both. Most of the time though we simply take the audio that went through our stream and archive that.

What platforms and methods do you use to broadcast?
We use our website, our iPhone app, and numerous third party streaming services such as Tunein to broadcast. In our studio everything is simply run through a program called nicecast which talks to our website, and from there streaming services take our mp3 stream and broadcast it on their platform.

How do you retrieve or record the content you broadcast? Where is this content initially saved? And in what file formats?
The content is recorded into a folder on our studio computer titled Nicecast Archives. The files are recorded in as aiff files, and from there we then take them and encode the files to mp3 to upload as archives since aiff files take up so much space on servers.

Do you migrate this material to other platforms for storage and web presentation
We post a selected few archives a week onto mix cloud, and most of our djs share their own programs on soundcloud etc. At the end of each year we back up the entire year of files onto one hard drive to save in the studio, and then one hard drive that is taken off site in order to be extra careful in case of a fire, etc.

What kind of schema do you use for the content’s metadata? What metadata do you always need to have and what is extra? Do you have a fixed vocabulary for genre tags or do you use others’ vocabularies?
In terms of metadata, we encode the title of the show, the artist name, the year, website as and then for genre we encode it as “future roots”. We also attach our basic logo in the image section of the metadata.

Do you use any forms of encoding or compression to store your content?
Not really, we just take the aiff and make them into both a wav and a mp3 for archiving purposes.

Do you have any long-term preservation or storage plans that you haven’t achieved / want to achieve?
It would be great to go back through old drives, and make sure every single hour of broadcast is archived since some of the older shows are not up on the site. We started heavily archiving just 3.5 years ago to present.

Have you ever lost material that you were not able to retrieve? Any big lessons learned?

We have indeed lost material due to the program nicecast freaking out, our studio computer shutting off unexpectedly, or random technical errors. The lessons we have learned is to make sure everything is kept tidy and tight on the studio computer, and to make things as seamless as possible in order to prevent any possible issues.