Jack White: 'A Lot of Digital Formats Are Anything but Fail-Safe'

The White Stripes frontman talks digital versus analog recordings.

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Jack White recently touched on the matter of digital versus analog recordings, pointing out that numerous digital formats aren't as bulletproof as many consider them to be. During a chat with the Atlantic, White stated that "a lot of the digital formats in the last 20 years have proven to be anything but fail-safe. The tapes break or the information can't be retrieved." The White Stripes frontman also talked about the days of early phonograph recordings. "There are stories of early phonograph companies taking apart the masters used to press wax discs so they could be sold as roofing shingles," he said. "They didn't think a recording was a document of anything cultural. It was just a way to sell phonographs." While discussing the time long gone by, Jack remembered the stories his mother told him. "My mother was telling me [that] in the '30s when she was a little girl you could go to the department store downtown and there was a sheet music section," he explained. "You could pick out a piece of sheet music and the lady running the section would play it for you on a piano." White is currently busy working on new material with the Dead Weather. The info was revealed back in late August with no further details posted as of yet. So analog or digital? Let us know in the comments. Photo is the courtesy of Alex Rauch.

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Digital is better than analog in terms of data storage simply because of how much easier it is to make an exact copy...Sure, my SSD or HDD (or even archival tape storage for any fellow IT workers who know what I'm talking about) won't last forever but neither will the analog copies nor their masters...At least with digital copies I can make a literally perfect copy on a brand new disk (along with backups, etc) and have a much, much lower chance of losing anything than with analog over a much longer period of time. That said, analog sounds better...I'd love to be able to use a secure digital regimen to store the masters and then repress analog tapes/LPs/whatever every few years to ensure quality remains highest.
    When it comes to archiving it depends. Digital is a very weak and risky format to save in since the lifespan of disks are pretty short. Even SSDs aren't forever. However, if you do continuous backup and care you simply pass over the exact same data.Older analog formats on the other hand, if well kept, can last for very long periods of time. Some old film reels can last for over a hundred years. But unlike digital, not even the highest of care can prevent the natural decay of the format. As for buying. I prefer LP for old bands, but I don't mind CD for many new artists since most albums are recorded digitally nowadays and CDs have more data. Also why does UG get rid of paragraph breaks?
    Music from established musicians: I will buy analog. Just picked up a "Lateralus" LP and "Blues for Allah" LP. New music: I just paid $5 for a free to download album by a nobody named Cory Johnson who makes post-rock/shoegaze versions of "The Legend of Zelda" music. only available digitally.
    He does have a fairly good point, there's been a lot of problems with digital recordings due to compatibility issues or the files being corrupted etc. I've experienced the latter myself.
    I only buy digital when there's no analogue available. It feels like you're paying for nothing sometimes but it's necessary to help support new music. It's expensive to release music on analogue formats, with more risk involved. The convenience of digital downloads does weigh heavily in their favour but I don't like paying for downloads from established artists.
    He's working with Dead Weather? Isn't Dean Fertita on tour with QOTSA?
    So? He cannot work on DW now? Jack can write parts and work on them when Dean is back
    This isn't the White Stripes we're we're talking about, Jack White is the drummer in Dead Weather and other members contribute quite a lot. It cant be coincidence though that Dean Fertita is in my 2 favorite rock bands of the past 10 years or so. Hopefully he is still having input on the Dead Weather record.