BY SARAH EDWARDS
We live in a complicated age of music streaming. On the one hand: having the world’s largest jukebox at our fingertips has obvious dazzle (it’s free! And available practically anywhere, anytime!). On the other hand, streaming behemoths like Spotify tend to shortchange artists, numb consumers, and flatten the creative experience.
A new Chapel Hill initiative is taking a step to create a more intimate streaming experience—one that gives up-and-coming North Carolina musicians more exposure—by creating a platform just for local music. Tracks, a collaboration between the Chapel Hill Public Library and Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture, is slated to launch later this spring.
Chapel Hill joins a growing list of communities with similar projects, including Austin, Seattle, and Nashville. Musicians will be paid $200 in exchange for having their albums included in the library and Tracks will receive non-exclusive rights for five years.
Artists and albums will be curated by a handful of Chapel Hill music experts, including Kevin “Kaze” Thomas, WXYC station manager Elinor Walker, UNC Southern Folklife Collection curator Steve Weiss, and former Crook’s Corner owner Bill Smith. Tracks will pay to license the selected music.
On the Tracks website, Steve Weiss writes, “What makes the local music so special is it reflects what is happening in our community, our history and traditions, our sense of humor, our struggles, our sense of who we are.”
The commercial-free platform will launch with an inaugural library of fifty albums; during the month of January, interested artists can submit 1-3 songs for consideration. In order to be eligible, musicians must reside in the Chapel Hill area (broadly defined—this includes Orange, Durham, Person, Alamance, and Chatham counties), hold the rights to the music, and have produced the songs within the past five years. A full list of criteria can be found here.
“Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas have long been a cradle for fledgling musical acts,” said Molly Luby, special projects coordinator at Chapel Hill Public Library, in a press release. “The Tracks platform will showcase some of these unsigned artists and help them reach new listeners.”