Like books, CDs have gone the way of vinyl and cassette.
This generation’s musicians are emerging in a digital landscape. Albums are sold as MP3s, branding is done through social media, and many times the instruments themselves are nothing more than laptops and hard drives. Music, along with technology, moves quickly, and it’s up to traditionalists to catch up. On the year of its 125th birthday, the Denver Public Library is hitting play on a digital means to disseminate local music to the community.
Sept. 11 marks the official launch of Volume Denver, the library’s online collection of local music that’s available for free streaming and download for anyone with a library card. Currently, the site has 38 albums available, including local favorites Esmé Patterson and Ian Cooke and genres ranging from Americana to hip-hop.
“We thought this could be an amazing opportunity to connect with our local community,” said Volume project manager Zeth Lietzau. The Denver Public Library will celebrate the launch of Volume, along with the library’s 125th birthday, with “Overdue: Beer, Books and Bands” at the McNichols Building on Sept. 11. The event features samples from local breweries, food trucks and performances from Ian Cooke, Plat Maravich and Switchyard Social Club.
Taking the idea from a handful of experimental libraries across the country, DPL started building Volume last winter and soft-launched the site on Aug. 5. Since the soft launch, Volume has had 200 albums downloaded, 2,000 tracks downloaded and 6,000 tracks played.
Volume is directed toward two primary audiences, Lietzau said. The first is younger people who don’t realize the type of services the library can offer.
“We tend to lose a lot of people in their 20s and early 30s,” Lietzau said.
The second targeted audience is the people already using the library who might not know the local music scene.
But with many — if not all — local artists familiar with or already using traditional channels of sharing music like Bandcamp, Soundcloud or Spotify, what would pull users away from established services to the Denver Public Library’s Volume?
“I think the one thing that we have is the specifically local piece,” Lietzau said. “What we’re trying to find is a place that creates a really Denver-centric community. That’s a niche that people are interested in.”
The service is local to its core — any band that’s not based in Colorado isn’t allowed to be included in Volume. To compile these local artists, DPL started by putting out a call for submissions.
For this first batch of local musicians, Volume received 91 submissions and selected 50 of those using a committee consisting of library staff and local music enthusiasts who have worked in record stores or reviewed music.
“Hopefully, the fact that they make it through is a source of pride,” Lietzau said. “But the biggest thing for them is that local exposure.”
While getting some major players in the Colorado music scene — like OneRepublic, The Fray and others — would provide great visibility for Volume, Lietzau said that record label restrictions would deter bigger bands from participating.
But, for smaller bands not yet signed to a record deal, this isn’t an issue. In fact, unlike many major online streaming services, Volume will pay artists for their music. Volume gives musicians $100 to host a full album for two years.
As of now, the Volume budget will support 100 albums a year. This budget, and the number of albums available, will grow if Volume proves to be successful.
“We would gauge success on how often things are downloaded,” Lietzau said.
Volume is currently seeking artists for its second round of submissions.