Music recordings of light music are primarily a commodity of every day broadcasting. Here it would seem sufficient to register the basics data such as composer, title, artists and licence rights. In every day practice it is the music title or the musicians, which are the usual search terms. Süddeutscher Rundfunk recently began using electronic data processing and we are now able to combine different data elements with each other and achieve more precise selection than by a conventional cataloguing system. This means, however, that we have to enlarge the input to cope with the various possibilities of combining formal, special musical, technical or artistic problems. We can now for example ask a computer to look for a recording of “Yesterday”, not sung by the Beatles, in an instrumental version, with a small group and no longer than three minutes. Such detailed questions may seem curious, but are quite common in the daily work of a radio archive.

In the field of serious music we started years ago to intensify the conventional working methods of cataloguing. Now we have a very efficient cataloguing system at our Disposal, which demands not only the documentation of formal dates, but also the contents of the work and certain aspects of music history, and musicology. When cataloguing of instrumental music the musical genre and musicians are also registered. Choral music, for example, is divided into sacred and secular music and, within the different types, into forms like oratorio, mass, madrigal and solo items. Important historical dates to be noted are the years of composition, dedication, literary or other subjects for the music and so on. For example, questions may arise about a piece of music which has been dedicated to the Emperor Napoleon, or about works which have been written between 1780 and 1800 outside the German musical world, or about a musical profile of works which were published in 1900, or a catalogue of works by women composers. All those questions are difficult even for an archivist with special training, and he will normally not be able to answer such questions from memory, but will need special catalogues, which are dependent upon the detail of documentation, put on to the database.

To put the issues in general terms: in radio archives selecting, collecting, cataloguing and erasing are directed by the needs of the radio station and its main purpose, namely the preparation and realization of daily programmes of all kinds. The process of planning which takes place before broadcasting and is often carried out by the programme maker and not the archivist, who may not even be concerned at this stage. The programme maker has to ask the questions: which available record has to be bought, which new productions should be made by the radio itself, or which artists should be asked to perform? The archivist will be confronted later with the result of this planning process. He has to decide whether a recording has documentary worth or not, considering the internal radio point of view as well as the artistic and scientific one.