Had everything gone according to plan, Chapel Hill Library’s new Tracks archive would have a slate of live events coming up – concerts and showcases displaying many of the area acts whose music has been curated onto the site. But this being 2020, the year of best-laid plans going awry, the COVID-19 shutdown made that impossible.
There is a silver lining to that, however. Originally, the collection was to feature a total of 50 Triangle acts. After the virus shutdown precluded live events, program managers changed gears and spent their budget on getting more artists into the program. So when Tracks went live in June, it featured 73 acts (with seven more in the pipeline).
“Since the number-one goal was to support the local music scene and help artists find a wider audience, upping the number of acts made sense,” says Molly Luby, special project coordinator for Chapel Hill Library. “We had almost 200 submissions, and some of the cuts were still painful.”
The process of getting Tracks online began about a year ago, when Chapel Hill Library applied for and received a grant to fund the project. Library management worked with a company called Rabble, which has done similar local-music programs with its MUSICat platform for other libraries across the country, including Nashville, Pittsburgh, Austin, Texas, and Eau Claire, Wisc.
The library enlisted a panel of experts to serve as judges and put out a call for artists local to the Triangle to apply. The initial slate covers a wide range of styles, from singer/songwriter Wes Collins and “Shake Sugaree Americana Residency” ringleader Jonathan Byrd to rapper Kevin “Rowdy” Rowsey (6) and jazz singer Lydia Salett Dudley.
Anyone can listen, but downloading tracks requires a Chapel Hill Library card. Tracks does have a budget to pay artists for their music, though it’s not a lavish amount. Selected artists receive $200 for a five-year non-exclusive license to use their music.
“That’s a pretty nominal amount for the artists, but it adds up for us,” Luby says. “To have 25 artists, that costs us $5,000.”
In this initial incarnation, Tracks is all current, still-active local artists. The program’s future plans call for delving into the area’s history. It will also yield up new work from the artists involved.
“We’ve enlisted two producers, Thom Canova and Kevin ‘Kaze’ Thomas to both work with five different artists on new songs this summer,” Luby says. “So this fall, we’ll have 10 new songs come out as part of the project.”
To check out Chapel Hill Library’s Tracks, go to tracksmusiclibrary.org.