Today, Guy Hankel of Madison Public Library joins us to talk about his work to create the Yahara Music Library– a project that launched Rabble, a new start-up that is building software for local music collections with library principles in mind. Check out all of our YML and Rabble posts by Kelly Hiser and the team HERE. ~Erinn
by Guy Hankel
It’s no secret that public libraries are increasingly curating and offering more locally-created content, particularly in the digital realm. When I read about the creation of Iowa City Public Library’s online Local Music Project a few years ago, I felt that something similar could work well in Madison, a city committed to engaging the arts. Our director, Greg Mickells, was excited about the idea, so I was given the green light to pursue a version of an online, local music collection. I knew I would need expertise and resources beyond what I could leverage at Madison Public Library, so I contacted Preston Austin at Murfie, a local company in the business of digitizing music collections. Preston immediately saw the promise of expanding on what ICPL had done, and a public/private partnership for the project was formed. After much preparation, the Yahara Music Library– which was documented on the Library as Incubator Project website here and here— was launched last May, so we are approaching our one year anniversary.
The Yahara Music Library is one of a small (but growing) number of public library affiliated online local music collections in the country.
Working with Murfie and Rabble (the startup that’s since spun out of Murfie to take over the project) enabled the library to fulfill our vision of what a library-sponsored local music collection could be. Currently, the Yahara Music Library is one of a small (but growing) number of public library affiliated online local music collections in the country. It differs from existing models in several ways: It offers four different digital formats for the music (including two lossless formats); it provides biographical information, reviews, show listings, links to artists’ social media, websites and other potential platforms for commerce; it has a clean, easy-to-navigate interface and music player that scales well to mobile devices; and the open source nature of the Yahara Music Library front end and APIs empowers other libraries to implement the project themselves.
One of our goals for YML was to curate a collection that reflects the breadth and depth of the Madison music scene. Established local favorites (Natty Nation, Beth Kille) are featured, as well as artists forging a national reputation (The Hussy, DJ Pain 1). The YML collection continues to expand across genres, including more local releases not available on CD. Community response has been overwhelmingly positive, but we continue to tweak our marketing strategy to reach more users. Upon launching the collection, we made sure to follow multiple avenues of promotion. We distributed buttons, stickers and postcards, placed print and bus ads, created project-specific social media accounts, and notified local press. We’re also hoping to test the hypothesis that allowing some non-authenticated listening will increase use of the collection. Up to the present, only system library card holders can stream and download music in the collection. We’re currently surveying participating artists to gauge their thoughts on possibly opening up streaming access to anyone, while continuing to restrict downloads to library system members.
One of the long-term goals of YML is to create a digital historical archive of Madison music history that includes photos, stories, interviews, and flyers.
We’ve also begun thinking about how to best incorporate non-audio material into the collection. One of the long-term goals of YML is to create a digital historical archive of Madison music history that includes photos, stories, interviews, and flyers. From rock/pop legends Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs in the ‘60s, jazz giants Richard Davis and Ben Sidran in the ‘70s, celebrated producer Butch Vig and Smart Studios capturing the beginnings of Grunge in the ‘80s, to current indie pop/folk band PHOX, the Madison area has long enjoyed a reputation of as the source of noteworthy artists. Creating a digital space to document Madison’s musical legacy would complement and add further perspective to the current audio collection.
We see YML as an ongoing investment in the community’s creative workforce.
Although YML is still in its beginning stages, we’re encouraged that other public libraries are seeing fit to initiate similar projects. Innovation and the arts have long been major drivers of Madison’s character and economic base, and this is undoubtedly true of many other municipalities. We see YML as an ongoing investment in the community’s creative workforce. Forging new connections between audiences and musicians, offering a new platform for music discovery, and encouraging people to actively support local music can be a crucial piece to a vibrant arts community as a whole.
Check out all of Kelly Hiser’s posts on the site, or shoot the Rabble team an e-mail at email@example.com. You can also follow along on social media:
Guy Hankel is a Reference Librarian at Madison Public Library, overseeing music collection development and acquisition. Guy can be reached at ghankel@madisonpubliclibrary.