The ways in which people find and listen to music has changed dramatically over the past decade. Discovering new bands once required time flipping through CDs at record stores or listening to a variety of radio stations. Today, most people turn to online services such as Pandora, iTunes and Spotify to find, listen to and download music.
This shift in how we interact with music has been felt not only in the record stores, but at libraries across the country. The Deschutes Public Library (DPL) district, which serves more than 160,000 county residents, has experienced a steady decline in the circulation of physical CDs. Collection Development Librarian Catherine Jasper has noted the trend over the years. “In a world where savvy music listeners find almost anything they want quickly and for free, we had to ask: what role does the library’s music collection have for a community?”
Jasper’s answer to that question came with a little inspiration from Iowa. There, the Iowa City Public Library’s (ICPL) “Iowa Music Project” has made music from local musicians available for free download by anyone with an ICPL card. “For years, I’ve wanted to offer local music to our customers in the Deschutes Public Library district,” she says. “But the costs and staff time needed to buy CDs—and the short life of those CDs on the shelves due to damage, loss and normal wear and tear—prevented us from pursuing it. Being able to shift the collection online is a game changer,” says Jasper.
The library already offered free, downloadable music through its Freegal music service, but local representation was missing from the national service. Creating a local music page required a custom approach, but Jasper was convinced it would be worthwhile and would dovetail perfectly with the library’s community-focused approach. “It was really another way to build community,” says Jasper. “People have many options for discovering and enjoying music online. We wanted to offer people a place to discover great local music and engage in the local music scene.”
Jasper sought out Central Oregon musicians who were willing to work with the library. “I also wanted to make sure we were exposing listeners to artists that they could see perform live. Our criteria were that they have a full-length album and play regularly around town,” she says.
She quickly found 11 bands that were eager to jump at the opportunity to get their music out there, including Broken Down Guitars. Stacie Lynn Johnson, lead singer for the band, says the partnership is a natural one. “Local musicians write about and play what their community is feeling and experiencing,” she says. “The connection is truly unique and draws us closer as a whole when both artist and audience can open up and feel the music together.”
Once contracts were signed and participating musicians were compensated for their work, the library began the process of building a dedicated “Listen Local” web page (www.deschuteslibrary.org/listenlocal
)—complete with preview and downloading capabilities. “We launched in December,” says Jasper. “As far as content goes, this is just the beginning. Every six months we hope to add another round of albums.” Bands participating in DPL’s “Listen Local” service include:
“I love that the library wants to support local musicians and push out our vibes to a broader demographic,” says participating musician Jay Tablet. “I chose to participate because it’s for a good cause and love to open new doors in my career. If you don’t try you will never know the outcome,” he continues.
“I dig the library page,” echoes acoustic pop musician Franchot Tone. “I love the library and appreciate all it does to support the community. I want to give back, so making my music available is a great way of doing that.”
Music found on the DPL “Local Music” page is free to download (and keep). All that’s needed is a DPL card. In respect for the artists who have so generously shared their work, the library asks that people “share the site, not the files,” ensuring that the discovery process continues.