ICPL now offers access to free, local music

BY LU SHEN | JUNE 14, 2012 6:30 AM

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After years' of exploring how to promote local music, the Iowa City Public Library has found a way to showcase the city's rich musical heritage.

The Public Library launched a new service called "The Local Music Project" on June 7. It allows library-card holders to download free local music from music.icpl.org. Approximately 50 CDs from local musicians are available for downloading so far.

John Hiett, senior librarian at the library who created the idea of the project in March 2011, said the project is a great way to promote local musicians in the Iowa City community.

"The music represents the cream of local music over the last few decades," Hiett wrote in an email. "Including, for instance, such favorites as Dave Zollo, Dead Larry, Public Property, Scott Cochran and Flannel, High and Lonesome, Joe and Vicki Price, and Ben Schmidt."

The project might be a unique service in the country, Hiett told The Daily Iowan.

"From other librarians I've talked to, I don't know if anybody else is doing it." he said.

The Local Music project is located in the library's media-service area — Iowa City, rural Johnson County, University Heights, and Hills. Hiett said he hopes other libraries like the idea and start the service as a project of their own.

Musicians are typically paid $100 by the library for each album added to the archives for downloading.

"We bought the rights to post the music for two years, but people can keep it forever," Hiett said. "There's no [Digital Rights Management] on it. There's no charge [to the public]."

The service will most likely keep the focus on local musicians as it goes on.

"At this point, all musicians are local musicians — people that at least play a lot in Iowa City," Hiett said. "Otherwise, they're from around here in most cases or lived here for a long time."

Catfish Keith, an Iowa City-based blues singer, songwriter, and bottleneck slide guitarist, is also excited about this project. The library currently has three of his 14 albums, Twist It, Babe!, Pony Run, and Rolling Sea, available for downloading.

"I thought it was great to be a part of a new way for people to enjoy my music," Keith wrote in an email. "And this brings more attention to albums I have that have been out for several years."

He acknowledged he has been affected by illegal downloading in the past few decades.

"I think the whole music industry has been affected by 'file sharing,' which is theft, really," he said.

Keith said some of the benefits of audiences buying musicians' music, including attending concerts, are lessened by illegal downloading.

"It makes it much harder to sell your music when people can just steal it and feel they are entitled to do so," he said. "But when you download these albums, for free from the library, you should feel good about it, because the library has paid the artists to do this. So everybody wins."

Former University of Iowa student Seith Duffie believes illegal downloading hurt musicians. He said he usually buys albums to support singers he likes.

"I respect them, so I pay them for their work," he said.

Duffie said he supports the free Local Music Project.

"It's mutually beneficial for both musicians and the community, " Duffie said. "I don't know much about local musicians. I will be interested in checking it out later."

Hiett acknowledged the project is mainly aiming to get local musicians more exposure.

"Because it's not just the musicians who come and go — people all the time are moving to Iowa City may not realize quite a musical heritage we have here," he said. "I want people to understand what's happened in the past and what's available now."

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