The ‘Internet Underground Music Archive’ Rides Again

The origins of the online music revolution are back, thanks to internet archivist extraordinaire Jason Scott. Scott, who works for the internet preservation group Archive.org, has resurrected the Internet Underground Music Archive, or IUMA as the kids called it back in 1992, when they were uploading songs via Gopher.

Started at the University of California at Santa Cruz by Jeff Patterson, Jon Luini and Rob Lord, the IUMA’s goal was to create an online music archive for unsigned musicians and bands. The idea was simple: Bands uploaded files and sent them out to fans over Usenet or e-mail. And just like that, the internet music revolution was born.

The IUMA site eventually came to host thousands of bands and hundreds of thousands of songs, many in MP2 and other long-since-abandoned audio formats.

Like so many other sites of that era, IUMA was eventually sold off during the dot-com boom years to a series of clueless owners who let the site die a slow death of neglect until it was shut down completely in 2006 (hmm, why does that sound so familiar?). Fortunately John Gilmore — perhaps best known for helping to start the Electronic Frontier Foundation — had the foresight to grab a copy of the site shortly before it disappeared.

Now Scott has used Gilmore’s tape archives to resurrect the IUMA site. As Scott says, “you are in for a treat and a hell of a lot of modern musical history just got saved.” The rescued archive doesn’t have everything that ever appeared on IUMA, but it does resurrect some 25,000 bands and artists and over 680,000 tracks of music. That’s 243 days worth of music for those of you more accustomed to iTunes than IUMA.

Scott says this resurrected version of IUMA should be “considered 1.0” and has promised to make sure the original data is “stored safely away so the next set of folks can try better techniques to get it back.”