Free music to your ears

By Rowena Orejana

Do you listen to a lot of music but not have much of a budget to buy it?

Auckland Library members now have access to millions of music files from the Sony Music catalogue - for free.

The Freegal Music service, an amalgamation of 'free' and 'legal', allows members of Auckland Libraries to legally download up to three songs or tunes per week.

"We expected when we were promoting it that it was something that would draw young people. We think it will bring young people back into libraries who might have thought that libraries weren't relevant for them anymore. And hopefully, that will mean they will come back to the libraries and discover all the other services and content that we have to offer," says Louise Lahatte, Auckland Libraries' manager of regional resources.

What the library found is that the idea appeals to people of all ages and ethnicities.

"Because it's a whole range of genres, from classical to jazz, we're expecting that there will be a little something for everyone who is interested in music," she says.

The content includes songs by foreign artists. "Sony is international and they do have some international artists ... but they do have a bias towards American content. We also know that people have been very happy with the Chinese music there, too," says Ms Lahatte.

There's some Kiwi music as well. "There's not a huge amount. So in May, when we have New Zealand Music Month, we'll have a look at what New Zealand content there is and use that opportunity to promote what there is for our customers," she says.

Ms Lahatte says they already have feedback from some of their customers who were able to download discontinued CDs.

The libraries did a soft launch in February to allow staff to familiarise themselves with the site. That resulted in 2420 downloads.

When it was launched this month, the numbers doubled in just 10 days. "From the first of March to the 11th, we had 4052 downloads. There were 1201 different people who downloaded," she says. More than half of the downloads were pop music.

The downloads are all in the MP3 format and work with any MP3 player, including iPod, and can be loaded into iTunes. It works on both PCs and Macs.

Ms Lahatte says downloading is easy and if there are any problems, the members can call their library to help them through.

"It's really to complement all the other music that the libraries also have. We have over 60,000 CDs across our 55 libraries. We also even still have an LP collection that not too many people know about in our Central Library," she says. "And there's a very large collection of sheet music for people who want to perform or play music. So this is just adding to the fullness of people enjoying music through their library."

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- The Aucklander

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