By Sarah Watson
With the tap of a finger, Johnson County residents can now stream local music directly from the Iowa City Public Library website.
The Local Music Project was started by John Hiett in 2012 to allow library-card holders to download and transfer music contracted by local artists. Now, in addition to downloading a zip file of the albums, library-card holders can now stream nearly 50 albums from the eastern Iowa music scene.
“With smartphones, streaming is now the predominant way to listen to music,” librarian Jason Paulios said. “Now we can see how many people are listening. It will show what interest it has, and we could justify putting more money to it next year.”
Since its inception five years ago, the Local Music Project has accumulated a revolving inventory of 160 albums from more than 80 artists. One of the first of its kind, the project has received attention from more than 30 library programs across the country.
Libraries in Denver, Omaha, and Nashville, among others have adopted similar programs to Iowa City’s to support their own local music scene.
Alyssa Hanson, who spearheaded the redesign of the website for the Local Music Project, said there has been an increase in people listening to the music since the new website launched. In the long term, she said, she hoped the streaming would allow easier access to music.
“More people are looking at the albums,” Hanson said. “It’s easier to find, more modern, and it matches the design of the rest of the website.”
Although downloading copyrighted music for free is often synonymous with illegal, in the Local Music Project, the artists are paid by the library to allow card holders to download and stream the music.
Paulios said he picks the music artists by researching online, looking at Little Village for reviews, word of mouth, and looking artists playing at local music venues such as the Mill. Once he picks an artist, the artist contracts music for two years for $100 or artists can give the library lifetime rights for a $300 contract.
“We hope it supports creation of music in the community,” Paulios said. “We want to help support vital music scene in Iowa City, and hopefully fund the artists’ next album or tour.”
One Iowa City music artist, David Zollo, started in the Iowa City music industry more than 25 years ago. His albums have been available at the library for checkout on CDs, and he now has seven albums he was involved with on digital download.
“It’s a really great way to get their music in front of people so they can expose area people to their music,” Zollo said. “Earlier in my career, I had people come up to me and say that they saw my music at the local public library, or that was the first way they heard it.”
Paulios said now that the redesign is up and running, he wants to start looking for a more diverse pool of local music artists.
“We’re heavy on folk rock and folk music, which is traditional for the Iowa City music scene,” he said. “We’re looking for more in genres like classical, and jazz, but we’re always looking for Iowa City players.”