We’re always interested in exploring new and exciting service models that can help libraries connect their patrons with the arts and artists in their areas.  Needless to say, the Iowa City Public Library’s Local Music Project is a game-changer, and we’re delighted to feature it here on the Library as Incubator Project website.  Many thanks to Senior Librarian John Hiett  for shedding some light on how the Local Music Project got started and where it could go. ~Erinn

ICPL Local Music Project promotional poster

If you have a library card and password, and live in Iowa City …you can download this music. You own it forever. Put it on your phone. Play it at parties. Turn it up.

Iowa City Public Library recently launched a new digital music collection called the Local Music Project.  Through the Project, the library leases the rights to records by local musicians, which cardholders from Iowa City and the library’s service partners can then download and keep–for free.  There are currently fifty-eight albums available on the Local Music Project page, and more on the way.

According to Senior Librarian John Hiett, this exciting new service model started with a common problem: the library needed a new way to deliver music to patrons. “CDs have high loss rates,” he says, “and many borrowers simply take them home and rip the music.”  In order to keep things legal and reduce the amount of theft that plagues AV collections, the library began looking into digital options, and the Local Music Project began to take shape.

Soon, library director Susan Craig gave the project a budget and the Systems Department started setting up the infrastructure, including authentication software, which ensures that Local Music Project albums can only be downloaded by the library’s cardholders.  “After four months,” Hiett says, “we finally got a meeting with the city attorney, and six months later, he gave us a contract we could use.” (A contract that the library freely shares– check out the links section below.)

The library then ventured out into Iowa City’s music scene to sign bands and negotiate license fees; they usually paid about $100 per album for a license that gives their patrons the right to download and own local music.  A PR push followed: “We posted the music and publicized it with interviews in local newspapers, the library website, business cards, a poster, and a banner that hangs over the pedestrian mall, where free outdoor concerts take place twice a week.”

The project has piqued the interest of the library community, certainly, as so many libraries turn their attention to local artists and makers as a source of community knowledge they can collect and share.  The best proof, however, is in the response from the local community in Iowa City; Hiett reports that it has been very positive among both the artists, who are excited to have a new and different venue for their music, and library patrons. “A week after our opening, we had 334 albums downloaded, 3,942 songs.  It looks like there will be a budget to expand the program next Fiscal Year.”

Banners at the library entrance advertising the collection.


Iowa City Public Library Launches Local Music Project | From Library Journal.

ICPL’s Local Music Project FAQ | Covers the basic is-this-for-real? FAQs, plus a handy section called How Can MY Library Do Something Like This, which includes great info for librarians who want to license local music for their communities.

PDF version of Public Library Music Licensing Agreement | The Local Music Project FAQ also includes this downloadable license template that libraries can use if they want to launch similar collections.

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