Local Music at the Local Library: A Win-Win

Sag Harbor is the music mecca of the East End. Sure, Amagansett has the Stephen Talkhouse, and big names play the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, and we can all be grateful for these venues. But here in Sag Harbor, the local restaurants are alive with local creators: from singer-songwriters to jazz improvisers, from grizzled bluesmen to teenaged ingénues, Sag Harbor’s hopping with local, original music.

This got Eric Cohen thinking. Cohen is the Technology Coordinator at the John Jermain Memorial Library in Sag Harbor. He has recently taken action to establish a new Local Music Collection to be a part of the library’s holdings. The idea is that musicians who live on the East End, or who perform here regularly, and who would like to be included in the Local Music Collection, will donate CDs of their music. These CDs will be catalogued and shelved separately from the standard music collection, and be made available to the library’s borrowers.

“It’s not a completely original idea,” says Cohen. Cohen attended a library conference a while back, and was introduced to the idea of local libraries collecting “indigenous” materials. An example he cites is a library in Jacksonville, Fla. which has in its catalog a vast collection of local “’zines”—that is, underground, non-commercial magazines. “That got me thinking—what do we have in Sag Harbor that should be reflected in John Jermain’s collections?” Well, what’s more obvious than our fertile local music scene?
The Local Music Collection was just announced last week, and already several local artists have come forward to place their CD’s in the collection, a good sign that this is an idea that local talent will respond to. Cohen is clearly excited about the enthusiasm he has been feeling from the music community.

Cohen is even more excited by what’s coming down the road—literally in this case, because before too long the library will be moving back up Main Street to its landmark home on the corner of Main and Union Streets. After that building’s renovations are complete, the John Jermain Library will have a “maker’s space,” a community access digital workspace designed to allow for the creation of music, video, computer art, or whatever community members want to create.

“Local musicians who may not have access to recording equipment elsewhere will be able to come in and make recordings of their songs.” They then might want to donate a copy of their work to the Local Music Collection; although Cohen stresses that there will be no obligation to do so.

As the tech guy at John Jermain, Cohen is acutely aware of the ongoing changes in the way people listen to music. He wants to eventually make the Local Music Collection available for streaming over the Internet. After all, only those of us with graying hair actually listen to physical CD’s anymore! Cohen notes, however, that there are a lot of hurdles to get over before John Jermain will be ready to do streaming.

“We are just beginning to work out the technical, legal and financial details of streaming media, so it will be at least a few months before this part of the program is up and running,” he says. One crucial factor is the problem of “cover songs,” those songs a musician might play that were written by somebody else. These bring up royalty issues, and will be a complication for Internet streaming.

Cover songs on a CD—well, you’ll have to talk to Cohen about that. I’m not about to get into the thorny issues of publishing rights in the pages of Dan’s!

At any rate, thanks to the enterprising Eric Cohen at John Jermain Memorial Library, it’s onward and upward with local music.

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