March 22, 2018

Iowa City Library Launches Local Music Project

Local Music logoWhen the Iowa City Public Library (ICPL) launched its Local Music Project at, an effort that makes the music of local musicians freely available to Iowa City library cardholders, it may not have expected the nationwide interest it received. The Project made waves around the country, getting the attention of and other venues, despite being only a few weeks old. So far, there are 49 albums available, and the list is growing.

One of the aspects of the project is that the music is freely available to the Iowa City cardholder to keep forever. Senior Librarian John Hiett said of the payment model, “Typically we pay $100 per record, with a few exceptions. This leases us the right to offer cardholders the right to download and keep the music. The lease runs two years, but the downloads are forever. Authentication software restricts access to our immediate service area.”

The local nature of the project, with its strong sense of place, may be part of its appeal. Artist Catfish Keith said despite touring worldwide he prefers to release his music on his Iowa City-based independent label and remain part of the local scene, and artist Tara Dutcher told LJ that her music students think it’s amazing to have such a resource of their local musical heritage.

The artists involved appreciate the opportunity to reach a wider audience. Artist Patrick Bloom said ICPL’s Local Music Project enables “anyone with a library card and an interest can discover local music, whether or not they are already familiar with me specifically or not.”

None of the artists interviewed had any reservations about the licensing agreement, and mostly seemed happy just to have their music reach a wider audience. As Bloom said, “The ICPL has offered the artists involved a basic licensing fee, which seems appropriate to me. The library is a community resource and shouldn’t be considered a profit center… I’m happy to have my music offered to folks who may not have heard of me previously, and who may then share their excitement about the music with others.”

Ultimately, Hiett hopes to grow the project beyond its hometown roots. Said Hiett, “My wilder dreams include a statewide consortium, that could offer musicians some real money, and library users a much wider selection.”

Though Hiett has no plans to reach beyond Iowa, ICPL encourages other libraries to adopt its model, offering its contract for use and to answer any technical questions about its system.

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  1. This is the most wonderful thing I have EVER seen! I want to start this at the Long Beach Public Library! We have such a rich music history and present! Please send me any info you can so that I can get this underway! Thank you so much! I LOVE YOU!

    Sincerely, Tara Dunn, Extension Services Librarian, Long Beach Public Library