How many important recordings have been lost this way?
If you keep your finished recordings nowhere else than the hard disk of your computer, you are going to lose them.
You are! Either you will erase the folder accidentally during a tidy-up session, or the disk will fail, or your computer will be stolen - laptops, for obvious reasons, are particularly vulnerable to theft.
So it is essential to copy your recordings to a permanent physical medium. But then you could still lose your recordings if they are not labeled properly.
Whichever physical medium you choose, and there is quite a choice including DVD-ROM, CD-ROM, CD-Audio, Minidisc, DAT and even analog tape for the die-hards, the medium always comes in two parts - the medium itself (these days, oddly often known as the 'media', even in the singular), and its container.
The medium should be labeled with at least these items...
- Writer (music and lyrics)
- Principal performer
- Contact information such as telephone number or e-mail address
- Information about the medium, if it is not immediately obvious what the format is - CD-ROM or CD-Audio, for instance
For some media, that's all you will be able to fit on anyway.
The container - jewel case, slip case or box - can be labeled with more detailed information. This would include all of the information on the medium, plus...
- All performers (they might need to be paid in future if the recording is released or broadcast). Just their names will do; they need to be responsible for being contactable.
- Technical information on the recording - sampling rate, bit depth, tape speed etc.
- Durations of tracks
- Any faults in the recording, or any features that could be interpreted as faults - for example intentional distortion or vinyl clicks.
- Engineer's or studio contact information
- Postal address
It may seem like nit-picking detail to attend to all of this, particularly if your recording is most likely to be thrown in a drawer, never to see the light of day again. But if you aspire to professionalism, then you should act like a professional at all times.
Think of the scenario where you send a demo CD to a record label or publisher...
The A&R manager will take out the CD from its case and put it in the player. Now, all of the information on the disc itself is hidden. So if he or she is really excited about what they hear, they need to find your phone number on the tray card of the jewel case.
What if you only put your phone number and info on the tray card and not on the disc? Inevitably the disc and case will get separated at some point. So no-one will know which of many discs goes in which case. Your work might as well be lost. If the info is in the disc then it can be replaced in its correct case, or if the case is lost there is still basic contact info available.
If one day you get to work in a studio, or in broadcast, and you are handling media all the time, you will see immediately that correct labeled is vitally important.