ARTS & CULTURE
By Pamir Kiciman
North Carolina has a rich musical history and was the birthplace of big names such as Elizabeth Cotten, Roberta Flack, Thelonious Monk, Nina Simone and John Coltrane. James Taylor was born in Boston, but his childhood from age 3 was spent in Carrboro.
It is in honor of this legacy and to expand access to local music that Chapel Hill Public Library and Chapel Hill Community Arts and Culture launched the Tracks Music Library in the spring of 2020, funded during its first year by a grant from the North Carolina State Library.
In the Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Greater Triangle area, there are so many live music and music festivals that it can be difficult for artists and audiences to discover each other.
Exclusively offering music from local artists, the Tracks streaming platform is completely free on mobile and desktop. And if you’re a Chapel Hill library card holder, you can download or save your favourites.
The platform is ad-free and offers an intimate, local alternative to behemoths like Spotify. Music on the platform is curated by local musicians and other personalities deeply involved in the local music scene. The selections feature various genres, including Americana, blues, folk, pop, jazz, soul, rock, and country, among others.
The Tracks music library is paired with a series of live performances. This year, all concerts will be held in the parking lot at the corner of Rosemary and Columbia streets in downtown Chapel Hill.
“By hosting the Tracks Music Series downtown, we hope to create a sense of local pride,” said Stephanie Cobert, Director of Marketing for the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership. “We want the community to come out to support local artists and patronize small businesses.”
There are three dates in September. Three local artists will perform at the first event on September 8: Magic Tuber Stringband, an experimental folk duo; VSPRTN, a dance and electronic DJ; and Godric, who is a rapper.
“The library aims to support the local music ecosystem by enabling music lovers to discover new music and enabling local musicians to discover new audiences,” noted Melissa Bartoletta, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the City.
Although centered in Chapel Hill, Tracks is open to artists from across the Triangle. There is an annual open call, according to Bartoletta, when area artists can submit their work. Local musicians can learn more about the submission process by visiting the platform’s FAQ page. The next round will open on September 8, 2022, according to the website.
Artists get paid for sharing their music with the Tracks collection and additionally get paid for live performances. “Current fees are $200 for an album with a minimum of five tracks,” Bartoletta said.
Tracks also provides access to artist biographies, links to their social media and websites, and ways to support artists through listener donations.
More than a local music archive, Tracks Music Library is a living and evolving library. The collection changes over time, as evidenced by two compilation albums released in December 2020, capping the platform’s first year.
The first oneTracks Volume I: We Rise As Allies, was inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests and addressing systemic racism. The second, Tracks Volume II: Isolation Illuminationwas a way to ease the forced isolation of the COVID pandemic and give artists another way to share music.
Chapel Hill Public Library is one of many institutions to have developed this type of platform. It joins other libraries in cities such as Nashville, Austin and Seattle.
The backend software and management of Tracks is made possible through a partnership with Rabble, a startup that created the software called MUSICat. Rabble works with libraries across the country to provide digital solutions that give their communities a way to celebrate local music while showcasing current artists.
The open-source software, which is developed in conjunction with librarians, handles submissions, licensing, publishing, creating artist pages, and all the other details of providing a community streaming service.
Traditionally, libraries have allowed patrons to view only physical media such as vinyl records, CDs, and even cassette tapes. One of the challenges for local musicians is that they often don’t produce physical albums – and the music industry has embraced streaming in general.
Another challenge for local artists in any city is receiving honoraria in a timely manner. Rabble’s MUSICat artist payment service streamlines and simplifies this entire process. In fact, the Chapel Hill Public Library was the pilot project for this service.
The Tracks music library has grown from 50 to 100 local musicians and bands in just over two years.
There’s a Class 2022 sampler you can listen to here. On the Tracks website, you can enter an artist or band name in the search field to view their artist page. Or while listening to an album, just under the album title, you can find the artist or band name. Click it to go to the artist’s page, which contains their biography and social media, website, and donation links.
The final two dates in the performance series are September 15 and 22, each concert featuring three different local acts. All shows are from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Pamir Kiciman is a writer/poet, artist/craftsman, photographer, healer and meditation teacher. To learn more, visit https://liinks.co/reiki.wordsmith or contact him by email: email@example.com.