From a business standpoint, you should keep your business-related correspondence. This could include emails to and from bands, studios, and labels with which you work. If the email relates to your business and shows how it works, then don’t trash it. We’ll get into the nitty gritty of how to save it in a moment. Right now, you need to start saving.
From an archival/historical standpoint, you should also preserve your fan mail. How fans interact with your work is a great thing to document. It shows your importance within a community. At the recent Society for American Archivists conference, Heather Fox from the Louisville Underground Music Archive (LUMA) presented on the importance of fan mail within music collections. Archivists are seeing a need to collect fan mail, and so should you.
We’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that a great many of you out there rely on some kind of free, advertising-supported email service for your label (or band) -- perhaps one managed by a gigantic internet company. That’s cool -- here at Indie Preserves, we use ‘em too. And chances are very likely that you’ll wake up in the morning to find you still have access to your email. But it’s important to remember that perpetual access to your online data is never guaranteed -- just ask the people who stored data with Google Reader, Google Health, and Google Code.
A bunch of you out there use Gmail for your label/band correspondence -- close to half of the 500 labels we contacted during our survey were via a Gmail address -- and that’s good news. Despite the many shortcomings of relying on Google, they have helpfully provided a pain-free method to get your data out of their servers called Google Takeout. Your email is just one of many options on Takeout -- any data you have logged with Google can be extracted, such as your Google Drive documents, Hangout messages, YouTube videos, etc.
But let’s focus on email. Click the “Select None” button at the top, then navigate down to Mail, so that you focus on getting your email downloaded. Takeout will offer you the opportunity to save all of your email, or specific folders/labels. If your personal email is used for label/band business, create a new label ahead of time and make sure any business or fan correspondence is marked as such.
If for some reason you ever need to go through your archives, you may notice the email is in a weird format called MBOX. All messages in your export are stored as this single plain-text file, where each message is broken up by a line consisting of "From”. The good news is that because it’s a plain text file, you’ll always have the text of your emails; the bad news is that you’ll lose the formatting.
One other thing to consider: your social media interactions are, in a way, a new form of fan correspondence, and are therefore worth saving. So the same should be done for your social media accounts. Right?
So besides saving your posted photos, there’s a bit of a “So what?” scenario with these social media data dumps. But don’t let that discourage you -- use the situation to take control of your label/band’s social media presence.
Take, for example, the method employed by our friend Sean Bohrman, cofounder of the incomparable Burger Records. Sean tracks every single Burger social media blast in a Google Doc tracking spreadsheet that includes the date and time of each post, which bands/releases the post names, the actual text of the post, and the direct link (to audio, video, the Burger online shop, etc.) used. Come the day when Burger exports its social media data, they too won’t be able to scoop up the contextual popularity from their fanbase, but they will have a more detailed dataset than what can be downloaded.