For artists, a motivating factor in their creativity is the desire to share their art with the world. Huntsville’s music 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 provide a boost for participating local artists. Offered by the Huntsville Madison County Public Library (HMCPL), Blast Music could ignite the careers of little-known singer-songwriters with big-time ambition.
“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 love your stuff,’ and maybe they’ll buy my CDs.”
How does it work?
Leveraging a simple, intuitive platform called MUSICat, users visit blast.hmcpl.org and click on an album. They’re then redirected to a new page with an embedded music player where they can listen. Clicking on the artist’s name takes users to a bio page that features a link to the artist’s website.
Available in large cities like Austin, Nashville and Seattle, the service offered through HMCPL is the 14th nationally and first in Alabama.
“We are proud to add Blast to the tool kit on Huntsville’s journey to becoming Alabama’s first designated Music City,” said Melanie Thornton, director of Public Relations for HMCPL.
The library’s involvement came about after Connie Chow, the library’s deputy director, was researching how the HMCPL could become more involved in the local music scene. Seeing the Seattle Public Library used MUSICat for its local music service, Chow believed it could be a great fit for Huntsville.
Thornton said the HMCPL used funds from an endowment earmarked for library music collections to make it happen.
“As a project, it aligns so well with our mission, vision and our core values, which include connecting with our community and serving their diverse needs,” she said.
The project has also been championed by the Huntsville Music Board, which had several members in attendance at the launch event.
Who gets selected?
Earlier this year, the library did a call-out for submissions from artists in Madison, Colbert, DeKalb, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Marshall and Morgan counties. Beginning in 2022, the HMCPL plans to start offering two four-week submission rounds per calendar year with a goal of adding 50 albums each year.
During a submission round, artists can submit a track, along with 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 a part of the service.
It’s important to note that all genres will be represented. Selected in the debut round were pop, hip-hop, rock, folks, rap, inspirational and instrumental artists. Thornton explained curators welcome submissions from Americana, bluegrass, blues, country, children’s, classical, gospel, jazz, Latin, soul and world artists, too.
“We want to showcase the wonderful diversity of talent in our local artists and are working to build a balance of representation as we grow the collection,” she said.
White considers herself “soft-rock with a folk twist.” She’s performed around Huntsville for many years but has written and recorded original music since 2016.
Her submission to Blast was “Evergreen,” a five-song extended play (EP) released in 2020. Because the pandemic has limited her ability to play live, White has used the downtime to write and record.
“No one ever thinks about Huntsville as a music city,” she said, adding she hopes Blast will help change that. “A lot of places want you to play covers, but I make sure I say I’m an original artist. This will hopefully spotlight local original artists.”
Thornton said Blast aligns with goals identified in a music audit performed by Sound Diplomacy. It also fills a gap identified through a S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.
“Some of the strengths they saw was a vibrant live music scene and availability of cultural organizations, and one of the weaknesses was a 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 be an answer to the lack of promotional channels and fund artists directly. As a cultural institution, we are helping to educate and inform our community of the talent we have here and connect the two and build a catalog of music for posterity and discovery.”
Songs on the radio become popular because they are played over and over again, and it forces you to like them. Give us a chance and listen.”
The artists represented on Blast are paid an up-front honorarium ranging from $200-300. More importantly, artists are connected to music-lovers who may not have otherwise known about their work.
White acknowledged that while the honorarium was appreciated, she’s more excited by opportunities for regional, national and even international exposure. She recently received a royalty check from Germany and acknowledged Blast could open more professional doors for local artists.
“It’s so easy to stream the music, so I tell people, ‘Stream my music while you clean your house,’ or ‘Play it at your local house parties,’” she said. “Give us support 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 it forces you to like them. Give us a chance and listen.”