For most of my life I've been the guy at 9pm at the library who is being tapped on the shoulder by the security guards reminding me it's time to go home. So the Indianapolis Public Library's venture into creating online materials with 24 hour accessibility has been of great interest to me, particularly when those ventures include music. With th news that the Indy's public libraries recently expanded their online music presence with a free streaming and download platform called Freegal, I decided to check in with the IPL's electronic resources librarian Michael Perry about this new service.
NUVO: I was experimenting with the library's Freegal service before we spoke and the structure of the site reminded me a bit of the Spotify music streaming service. But what the library is offering patrons that is unique is the ability to listen to three hours of ad-free music per day and the option to download five songs per week for free.
Perry: That's correct and you can explore Sony's vast archive of music as well as 28,000 other catalogs of music, giving you millions and millions of different titles to listen to. The three hours of ad-free music we're bringing you can be used to listen to a second of one song or for listening to a complete album. The five downloads are available as MP3s. We have no digital rights on the music; that means when you download them, they are yours to keep. You can keep them on the device you downloaded them on or move them to any MP3 player. It's yours to do with what you will.
There are apps for Freegal at both the IOS app store and Google Play store. No matter what device you use, you should be able to find an app. To sign in all you need is a library card and you'll be off and running in a matter of minutes.
NUVO: Can you give us a sense of how this service is being funded? You're providing Indianapolis Public Library patrons five music downloads per week, certainly there's some cost attached to that.
Perry: These MP3s are a very small part of our total budget. They are paid for through our materials fund. We've had requests for services like this, so we thought this would be a great way to meet the needs of our patrons.
NUVO: This question might fall outside of your involvement with the Freegal service. Do you know how artists are getting compensated when their music has been streamed or downloaded? My assumption was that it operated on a model similar to Spotify or iTunes.
Perry: You're right. Freegal gets their money from libraries and other entities that they sell these packages to. The distribution is the same model you would find with Spotify, Pandora and others. Again the big difference here is that there are no ads with Freegal and they're not looking for you to purchase a subscription-based service. All of that has been taken care of and the artists do get their money. We think it's a great model to bring to our patrons in Indianapolis.
NUVO: I was impressed with the range of different music available. I was listening to Terry Riley's Rainbow in Curved Air album, everything from Sun Ra, Captain Beefheart, Merle Haggard, Death Grips, Nina Simone, Fela Kuti to the classic hip-hop LP Illmatic by Nas. So there's a complete range of music for all tastes.
Perry: Also you can search by genre. If you click on genres at the top of the screen and scroll down until you hit Latin it opens up a wide variety of music to serve our Latin population. We also have a nice variety of music that is more soothing and relaxing. And here's the beauty of this: Let's say you like listening to rain and thunder or you like listening to waves. You can stream these sounds for three hours, but if you want to keep these sounds you can download the rain and thunder even if it's an hour-long track. It still only counts as one download.
NUVO: Providing online music streaming and music downloads is certainly a step beyond the traditional services the library has provided in the past. Obviously technology is changing the way we experience music and books, can you talk about the significance of the library's decision to provide these services?
Perry: The library recently came up with a strategic plan for 2015 to 2020. One of the points of that plan was to answer the digital needs of our patrons. We've brought on Ebooks, online databases, streaming video. We're digitizing yearbooks, as well as the music we've been talking about. One last thing I want to mention, if for some reason you have fines on your library card, that's OK. You can go log onto any electronic device and enjoy these services even if you have fines. The library is trying to reach out and give you more venues to experience the joy of reading and listening to music. We don't want fines on your library card to stand in the way.