The library is a building that holds thousands of books. But that doesn't describe the institution's role. Libraries are our memories. They are the place where all the lines eventually connect, where you can trace the progress of time in every direction. With the library's help, you can find the way a single house in Capitol Hill fits into an entire society of millions of people.
That mission extends well beyond being a repository of books. And as media moves away from the printed page, some forward-thinking libraries are finding new ways to connect people to their communities. To that end, the Denver Public Library is launching a new project to document and share local music.
We told you about Volume Denver back in its planning stages late last year. Basically it will work as a distribution platform, a place where library card holders can browse the musical offerings of their city and learn about the bands featured. People will be able to listen to individual songs or entire albums, try out playlists generated by library staff or even create their own. There will be biographical information and pertinent links to websites, stores and social-media platforms for each band.
DPL was inspired by similar efforts elsewhere in the country. Senior Collection Specialist Joan Hansen has talked to libraries in Iowa City, Santa Cruz, Ann Arbor and Toronto about their own programs designed to spotlight the local music scene. She and her staff asked themselves, "What can we do that's unique?" They have spent months developing a system designed to be exceptionally user-friendly.
Which is important, because local music scenes can be difficult to navigate for the completely uninitiated. If you just moved to town, you'd need to find a trusted source of information, follow it until it suggested something appealing, and then track that show or band down to decide if it was worth pursuing further. What Volume Denver offers is an organized, accessible, totally free entry point.
It also helps that an organization like DPL is involved -- its goals are transparent and civic-minded. "We have no profit motive," says Zeth Lietzau, who is leading the team designing and building the site.
"This is the one time [bands] are not getting screwed over," says Dave Wilkinson, who works in the circulation department of the Library and also at record store Wax Trax.
More information on the submission process is on the next page. It doesn't take much to make a local music fan. Once you find that one band you like, a rich world opens up in the form of opening bands, common threads on social media, posters on the walls of the venues and, most importantly, conversations with people who also like that band. Sometimes all it takes is figuring out which door to walk through.
For now, Volume Denver is working on building its first batch of albums to present. Artists can now submit an EP or full-length album to the recently launched Volume Denver web site. Because there is a not-incidental amount of labor and cost associated with hosting each album, a limited number will be selected. A panel of experts drawn from Library staff and industry professionals will pick 50 EPs and full lengths from the submissions for the launch of the program. They will add another 25 to the archive every three months, for a total of 100 per year.
If your album or EP is picked, the Library will pay you a licensing fee of $50 for EPs and $100 for full-length albums. They will host the release on the Volume Denver site for two years, during which card holders can download or stream the music. It's a non-exclusive agreement -- if another entity wants to pay a band for a song, that doesn't violate the Library's terms. You can read the full contract here.
Submissions for this first round will end on May 15. In mid-July, the Volume Denver site will launch with a home page featuring curated playlists and a guide to the project, as well as pages for each album with individual biographies for the band. There will be a media player on the site where people can stream anything featured and store the music in playlists. Think of it as your own iTunes library for Denver music, except you also get a tour guide and there's no Apple to make everything difficult.
The Library has always held plenty of physical CDs as well. That won't change, and in fact any bands can go to any branch and talk to an employee about how to add their releases to the collection.
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