Take off: New Blast music service showcases works by local artists
For artists, a motivator in their creativity is the desire to share their art with the world. Huntsville musical artists share their art through live performances, but distributing original music can be a challenge.
The launch of a new free streaming service, however, could give participating local artists a boost. Offered by the Huntsville Madison County Public Library (HMCPL), Background music could ignite the careers of little-known and ambitious singer-songwriters.
“It’s more exposure to our local community,” said Lana White, a Huntsville-based singer-songwriter. “People can see me on Blast and say, ‘I like your stuff,’ and maybe they’ll buy my CDs. “
How it works?
By leveraging a simple and intuitive platform called MUSICat, users visit blast.hmcpl.org and click on an album. They are then redirected to a new page with a built-in music player where they can listen. Clicking on the artist’s name takes users to a bio page with a link to the artist’s website.
Available in major cities like Austin, Nashville and Seattle, the service offered by HMCPL is the 14th nationally and the first in Alabama.
“We’re proud to add Blast to the toolkit on Huntsville’s journey to becoming Alabama’s first designated music town,” said Melanie Thornton, public relations manager for HMCPL.
The library’s involvement came after Connie Chow, the library’s deputy director, researched how the HMCPL could become more involved in the local music scene. Seeing that the Seattle Public Library was using MUSICat for their local music service, Chow thought this might be a perfect fit for Huntsville.
Thornton said the HMCPL used funds from an endowment intended for the library’s music collections to make this happen.
“As a project, it aligns so well with our mission, vision and core values, which include connecting with our community and meeting their diverse needs,” she said.
The project was also supported by the Huntsville Music Council, which had several members present at the launch event.
Who is selected?
Earlier this year, the library called for nominations from artists from Madison, Colbert, DeKalb, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Marshall and Morgan counties. Beginning in 2022, the HMCPL plans to begin offering two rounds of four-week submissions per calendar year with the goal of adding 50 albums each year.
In a submission round, artists can submit a track, as well as biographical information. Submissions are reviewed by a team of curators, made up of library staff and members of the local music community. They listen to the tracks and decide which artists are invited to be on the service.
It is important to note that all genres will be represented. Pop, hip-hop, rock, folk, rap, inspirational and instrumental artists were selected in the first round. Thornton explained that curators are also accepting submissions from American artists, bluegrass, blues, country, children’s, classics, gospel, jazz, Latin, soul and world.
“We want to showcase the wonderful diversity of talent of our local artists and we are working to strike a balance of representation as we develop the collection,” she said.
White considers himself “soft-rock with a folk touch”. She has performed around Huntsville for many years, but has written and recorded original music since 2016.
His submission to Blast was “Evergreen,” a five-song Extended Play (EP) released in 2020. Because the pandemic limited his ability to perform live, White used the downtime to write and record.
“No one ever thinks of Huntsville as a music town,” she said, adding that she hopes Blast will help change that. “A lot of places want you to play covers, but I make sure to say I’m an original artist. This will hopefully put the spotlight on the original local artists.
Thornton said Blast aligns with the goals identified in a musical audit performed by Sound Diplomacy. It also fills a gap identified through a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).
“Some of the strengths they saw were a vibrant music scene and the availability of cultural organizations, and one of the weaknesses was the lack of adequate promotional channels,” she said. “We can take the fact that we have a vibrant local scene and quality talent, and with Blast, help respond to the lack of promotional channels and fund artists directly. As a cultural institution, we help educate and inform our community of the talent we have here, connect the two and create a catalog of music for posterity and discovery.
Songs on the radio become popular because they are played over and over again, and that makes you love them. Give us a chance and listen.
Artists represented on Blast receive an initial honorarium ranging from $ 200 to $ 300. Most importantly, artists are linked to music lovers who might not have known their work otherwise.
White acknowledged that while the honoraria has been appreciated, she is more excited about the regional, national and even international exposure opportunities. She recently received a royalty check from Germany and acknowledged that Blast could open more professional doors for local artists.
“It’s so easy to stream music, so I tell people, ‘Stream my music while you clean your house’ or ‘Take it to your local parties,’ she said. “Support us in the easiest way possible by just putting us in your rotation. Songs on the radio become popular because they are played over and over again, and that makes you love them. Give us a chance and listen.