Austin Public Library to unveil streaming service

Noah Van Hooser

Despite the fact that Austin has garnered attention for its eclectic music scene, many unique acts don’t get an opportunity to make their mark. Austin Public Library’s newest initiative is hoping to change that.

The Library is introducing Electric Lady Bird, a streaming service native to the its website, which promotes commercial-free, curated music streaming exclusively from homegrown artists. Of individual acts’ submissions, 50 albums or EPs will be selected for Austin’s music sphere to consume.

Dale Kittendorf has been selecting music for libraries for nearly 20 years. As Sight & Sound Curator for the Austin Public Library, Kittendorf makes media purchases for the library system. Heading the Electric Lady Bird project, Kittendorf said the inspiration for the project was to address complications for the Library in acquiring media.

“Collecting music has always been a standard practice for libraries, but seeking local media in this way is new,” Kittendorf said. “Getting into licensing, it becomes difficult as a librarian keeping up with physical copies of media. In that way, (the streaming service) is a great approach in regard to building a collection for the Library.”

Artists interested in contributing to the collection are encouraged to upload one to three full-length tracks representative of their work. Those selected for streaming will be awarded $200 and grant the Library the right to stream their album or EP for a
three-year period.

Choosing from the pool of submissions will be a panel of jurors, who will make decisions based on fixed criterion such as recording quality, general musicianship, songwriting and the degree of locality. The panel will consist of 12 individuals spanning the Austin music industry, from a former Radiohead publicist to the president of a local record pressing plant, Gold Rush Vinyl.

“Diversity is a focal point for us,” Kittendorf said. “We want to represent everything the Austin music scene has to offer.”

One of those curators is Terrany Johnson, an Austin-native and indie musician who has released over 20 independent albums under the name Tee-Double. Johnson also channels experience from serving on the advisory board for the Austin Music Foundation, Black Fret and as a former nominee for the Austin Music Awards Hall of Fame. Johnson said the platform is a necessity for an ever-changing industry.

“In the new digital age, artists need even more outlets beyond traditional retail,” Johnson said. “(The streaming service) is just another important step for artists caught up in the mix to spread their music, gain fans and generate bookings in a nontraditional manner. It will expand Austin’s reach as a
music mecca.”

For music enthusiasts, the service caters to demands for more obscure talent. Deepan Barma, a biochemistry freshman and library patron, said he plans to explore the service upon release.

“Austin residents are in need of something like this,” Barma said. “Many people don’t take the time to explore the more niche, DIY corners of Austin’s music scene. This affords everyone
that chance.”

The service is anticipated to launch in early 2019, when audiences may stream the collection 24/7 uninterrupted. For those involved, the project’s culmination marks a significant moment
for artists.

“I’m pleased to add my voice along with other curators,” Johnson said. “We look forward to creating a space for artists who have otherwise been overlooked by larger media.”