Library offers musical downloads

BY BRETT KARLAN | JULY 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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A little more than a year ago, the Iowa City Public Library launched an ambitious project: collecting music from a wide variety of local bands and make the songs available online, free to download for library users.

“We at the library are constantly watching formats … and people want a downloadable product,” said Jason Paulios, a senior librarian in adult services at the library.

Paulios took over the position of senior librarian from John Hiett last year. Hiett started the program, called the Local Music Project, in June 2012 with the goal of offering local music to library patrons in a digital, downloadable setting.

The way the service works is straightforward: The library offers bands $100 for access to an album they have recorded. The library then makes the tracks available online for two years. People with Public Library cards, and a password that can be obtained at the library, can then download and play the music as many times as they would like.

Paulios said the library added 69 new titles in the last fiscal year. A total of 132 albums are available for download, he said.

Paulios noted that the service seems to be growing in popularity, as exemplified by increased numbers of visits to the site. Certain artists had been downloaded at a high rate, he said.

“[Keyboardist] Dave Zollo in particular, and folk and roots music in general, seem to be doing pretty well,” he said.

Local artists have been taking note of the program.

“It’s cool that the library has this cultural trust, this record of our awesome music scene at the ready,” Katie Roche, a singer and the accordion player for local band Awful Purdies, wrote in an email.

The band’s first, self-titled album is currently available as part of the project.

“It’s [also] a great idea that the bands are paid,” she said. “It’s good of the library to realize that our time and talent should be valued and promoted.”

If there’s a deficit to the collection right now, Paulios said, it’s the underrepresentation of certain musical styles.

“We added some metal, and we added some punk with some teen bands,” he said. “But we’re pretty covered in terms of Americana and roots music. So we’re always interested in new acts.”

When asked about the wider significance of the project, Paulios stressed its community-building aspect.

“The project helps us keep a tie to the community,” he said. “And the digital format helps us make as many connections with people as possible.”

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