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Unlocking the Barbershop Vault

May 9, 2019

The BHS Archive Project

Help us unlock thousands of vintage barbershop performances -- starting with your favorites!

about the project

No matter how long you’ve been a Barbershopper -- a few months, or a few decades -- you’ve probably heard tales of legendary contest performances from years gone by. “You had to be there!” you’re told, because of course, there was no way to see those live moments again.

Or is there?

For decades, the Barbershop Harmony Society has been amassing a sprawling collection of audio, film, and video recordings of its finest performers. With more than 5,200 unique media items totalling an estimated 30,000-100,000 individual songs, it is a treasure for history, musicology, and fond memories of our beloved musical art form.

Unlocking that treasure is a tremendous challenge. Handling fragile, long-outdated media formats and cataloging and identifying songs takes expertise, specialized equipment, and time -- all of which are far outside BHS daily operations and budgets. Although efforts continue toward finding large donors and institutional funders, the demand from fans and families alike offers us a more immediate solution to begin the BHS media transformation and ensure the preservation of these performances and experiences for decades to come.

You now have not one, but two ways that you can help BHS with the “P” in SPEBSQSA:

  • Option 1: Make a tax-deductible gift to Harmony Foundation International to support the BHS Archive Project. For more information, please contact the Harmony Foundation International at 615-523-5611 to speak with an HFI representative.
  • Option 2: If there is a particular performance or quartet that has special meaning to you, you can pay the production cost required (through a third-party audio/video production house) to digitize and release the recording to the public on our YouTube channel. For more information, please read on!

Unlocking the Barbershop Vault

You can help us preserve our art form for generations to come.

While we work to raise the anticipated $3.0 million+ to more fully preserve the Society's Archives, interested individuals can help select and sequence the work by covering the expense of the digital transfer of BHS contest and convention shows.

It’s simple:

  • Use the online form to request a specific year and event.
  • We’ll check to see if the media is available and quote you a price for the product , usually starting at $150-$600 depending on event and duration. (Details below.)
  • On approval and payment, we’ll queue the event for digital transfer.
  • When completed, usually between 90-120 days, the finished project will premiere on our YouTube channel, ensuring broadest possible exposure and nearly eternal existence. The YouTube description will note the name of the purchaser who made the release possible and/or the person or quartet who is being honored.
  • You will receive an archival copy of up to two performances of your choosing as confirmation that the work has been completed.

The Sidewinders - Tears (1963 International Convention)

Four Renegades - Shall We Get Under Way?

Performance Requests and Availability

  • Digitization requests are available for official Society recordings and events only (performances at the District level are not available at this time)
  • While older content may be in our archive, videos for most years between 1979 - 2010 are available for digitization; audio is available for most years from 1948 - 2010*

Please note that the months of July and August are considered “blackout” dates, during which time no BHS production services will be available due to capacity restraints on staff during and immediately following our two annual summer events (International Convention and Harmony University).

Pricing Information

We’ll do our best to locate the desired performance(s) and, if found, will give you a quote for your purchase, which will reflect the cost of digitization.

Requires purchasing digitization of one full contest session, event, or show ($150 minimum**; average cost $600). Due to inconsistent and inaccurate labeling on some of the original archived reels and tapes, no digitization requests for individual song performances are possible. This process ensures we can correctly fulfill your request.

We won’t begin any work until your approval has been given and your payment has been secured.

If your favorite quartet made it all the way to the finals and you can’t decide which round is your favorite, we offer a 15% discount for purchasing digitization of all contest sessions in a convention (e.g., all contest sessions of the 1993 International Convention).

Other Details

  • Upon final payment, purchaser will receive a confirmation.
  • An archival copy of up to two (2) purchaser-chosen songs from the completed video files will be sent via flash drive (or CD, upon request) to purchaser or designated recipient estimated within 60-90 days from date of final payment.
  • All digitized assets will be uploaded to the BHS YouTube page within 90 - 120 days from date of final payment. (Production time can vary.)

*DISCLAIMER: While rare, depending on the condition or format of the media, some performances may not be available for digitization.

**Prices locked in through December 31, 2019. Prices subject to change for any media delivered to the production house after January 1, 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

Submitting a Request

Pricing and Refunds

Performance Details


Don't see your question answered here?

Contact marketing@barbershop.org for more information.

General Information

What is video/audio digitization and why is it necessary?

Digitization is the process of taking original analog video or audio master tapes or reels and putting the footage into a format that computers can store, process, and transmit. In most cases, the technology to playback these recordings is no longer manufactured, and, with age, the original media breaks down until it is no longer usable.

Digitization not only preserves the old footage, but makes it readily available for all interested parties in today’s technological landscape.

What video/audio assets are available to be digitized?

Video is available for most years between 1979 - 2010.

Audio is available for most years from 1948 - 2010.

You can cover the cost of digitization for complete International contest sessions (Chorus Finals, Quartet Semifinals, etc.), complete International shows, and some Midwinter shows.

Digitization requests are available for official Society recordings only. These include International contest sessions, International shows and some Midwinter shows. Performances from District events and contests are not available at this time.

You might start by perusing our past champions page, or submit a request for a friend or family member who may have participated in a Society contest or event during the years outlined above.

Why are July and August considered “blackout” dates, with no BHS production services?

Our videography department attends each International and Harmony University convention and post-produces over 500 individual performance videos from those events during July and August. Our staff does not currently have the capacity to process additional videos from our archives during these months. We know you understand and appreciate your patience.

Submitting a Request

I’m interested in paying for the digitization of video/audio, but I’m not sure where to start. How do I submit a request?

Submit your request using this form. Once submitted, you will be contacted via email with further details and a price quote.

I would like to pay for the digitization of a contest session that a family member sang in, but I don’t recall the name of the quartet/chorus. Can you help identify which session to purchase?

Absolutely! Even if you do not know the exact name of the quartet or the year of the event, we encourage you to submit your request with as much information as possible. We may be able to use any clues you can provide us to identify the correct footage, including a description of the outfits worn, the songs that were performed, the city where the performance took place, or other details. Just be sure to include only verifiable information…please do NOT guess!

We will research your request and contact you with the information we think you are requesting. Once you confirm, we’ll provide you with an accurate price quote.

Can I purchase a digitization project anonymously?

While we’ll need your information for payment processing, we are happy to keep your details anonymous in the YouTube description of your video/audio digitization upon request.

Pricing and Refunds

How much does it cost?

Because every event contains a different number of reels and/or video tapes, pricing will vary and is unique for each request. If you purchase digitization for one contest session or show, the price will vary depending on how many reels or video tapes were used to capture the footage. Estimates will be provided once a request has been received.

For example: If you purchase digitization for the 1962 Quartet Quarterfinals, digitizing the seven reels used to capture the event is estimated to cost $1,050. If you were interested in the 1990 AIC Show, digitizing those two video tapes costs $300.

In addition to purchasing digitization for a single contest session or event, a bulk option is also available. If you purchase digitization an entire event, you’ll receive 15% off the total cost. For example, digitizing the entire 1959 International convention, contained on 14 audio reels, would cost $1,785. This estimate includes the 15% discount.

Can I pay for a single song/performance to be digitized?

No. Because of the third-party costs involved, we are unable to offer single performances. It is only possible to digitize complete International contest sessions (Chorus Finals, Quartet Semifinals, etc.) or complete International shows.

If I purchase digitization for a contest session or show that is incomplete, do I get a refund?

Prices are quoted based on the number of tapes or reels, so we have no way to know what is on them without going through the digitization process. For this reason, we are not able to offer refunds for incomplete performances, but we will do our best to inform you of the content that was included. Most of our archive is well marked, but there are times that the labeling on a particular reel or tape is incorrect or incomplete. Unfortunately, we do not have a way to verify the content until after we have incurred the cost of digitizing it.

Will the prices change in future years? Why?

Our current contract with the production house with whom we partner to complete the digitization ends on December 31, 2019. Changes -- if any -- to the pricing structure will be assessed at that time and updates will be shared accordingly.

Performance Details

Will I receive a personal copy of all of the video/audio files from the event I selected?

No, the digitized performances will be released to the public on the BHS YouTube channel for all to enjoy. As confirmation of your purchase, you will receive an archival copy of up to 2 songs.

How soon will the video I selected become available to watch?

The digitized performances you selected will be available on our YouTube channel within 90 - 120 days.

Are District performances available for digitization through this project?

No, only performances produced by the Society at International or Midwinter conventions are available for digitization.

Will digitized video/audio also have remastered sound?

We are not able to offer remastered sound to video or audio digitizations at this time.

Why might audio before 1948 not be available?

While our archive is extensive, audio and video recordings of conventions from 1939 - 1947 were not always maintained, due to limited availability of the necessary technology and funds.

Why might video before 1979 not be available?

Our archive is extensive. The Society leaders that came before us not only captured video footage of each International and most Midwinter conventions, but also kept a copy of them, in most cases. We have, for example, the convention recap videos from all of the 1970-era International conventions but it was simply too costly in that era to own and keep the video masters (the original source footage) from which they made those recaps. We cannot guarantee there are any full performances on those recaps that would meet our release standards.

We still encourage you to request the year you want, regardless of stated date range, because it may be in our archive. The available years prior to 1979, unfortunately, are just too sporadic to list and complete footage of the events cannot be guaranteed.

Why can’t I purchase digitization for any video or audio after 2010?

All International, Midwinter, and Harmony University convention footage from 2011 to present day was originally captured in digital format, so no digitization is needed. With rare exceptions, all International performances from 2014 to present day are (or will be) available on our official YouTube page. Performances from 2011 to 2013 are currently scheduled to be produced and uploaded in the future.