A Musician's Treasure Trove

Libraries As A Musician's Resource

by Armchair Anarchist

So, you’re a musician. And musicians are cool people, right? They do cool things; hang out in the cool places to be seen with other cool people. So no musician with sense would be seen dead in a library, would they? Well, that depends. Elton John probably doesn’t go to his local library; even if there was something he wanted there, he’d probably send one of his ‘people’ instead. But for the young, hungry musician, without access to Elton’s fresh flower budget, there are lots of very good reasons to head to the library. Once you’re signed up as a member (which costs you nothing; take two forms of ID, one with proof of your current address, and you’re ready to go), there’s masses of CDs for you to borrow. A one-disc album costs you £1.00, and multi-disc sets are £1.50 for a 28 day loan. The variety is immense, from folk to funk, from plainsong to punk rock, including old and obscure things that you’ll never find on Kazaa. And it’s completely legal. Taking a copy at home, of course, is a breach of copyright, and the library service certainly cannot publicly condone this sort of thing... and if what you want isn’t on the shelf, you can use the Inter-library Loans (I.L.L) system. The staff at your library can search the database belonging to every library in the country in order to try and nail down that obscure ‘Fields of the Nephilim’ album, or a recording of Beethoven’s 5th performed by Phillip Glass on the kazoo. If it exists, the odds are high that you can get it sent to your local branch for your listening delight. This costs about a pound or two in total, depending on availability. But that’s not all. The library service keeps a huge selection of music score books, from classical pieces all the way through to transcriptions of albums by the latest artists, large and small. Again, if it’s not on the shelf, the I.L.L. system could well be able to get it for you. It doesn’t cost you anything to ask, and buying a TAB transcript of your favourite album is not a cheap option. And what about books that teach you new techniques? Or books on home recording, production, and song writing? Instrument making and repair, guides to the ins and outs of the industry? They’ve got the lot, or can get it in specially. Look beyond the music shelves and there are books on marketing, keeping your accounts, using and repairing computers and electronics manuals to help you repair that antique pedal you found in a second-hand shop. It’s all for free, or a small fee for those requests external to the library. If you’re taking the idea of a music career seriously, you’ll need to learn all of these things at one point or another. Unless you can afford to pay for someone else to do it for you. No, didn’t think so. Let’s not forget the free public internet access, either. No good for downloading music, but great for writing letters to send out with your demos, making basic flyers and posters (colour printing available), scanning photos and press clippings, doing research and finding contacts, especially if you don’t have your own computer. And last but not least, there are thousands of fiction books, also free to borrow. Too cool for reading books? There are only so many songs you can write about your own life and experiences, and they may not have the broad appeal that a really killer tune requires. A good work of fiction can (and often has) inspired some fantastic songs. And reading novels will teach you to walk in another person’s shoes, seeing things from a different viewpoint or perspective. Many of the most renowned lyricists are vocal (pun intended) in their appreciation of good literature and with good reason. You’re trying to tell a story with a song. It will certainly do you no harm to see how the masters of storytelling have done it in the past. The national library network has a huge amount of resources available, at miniscule fees. A young musician, scraping around to save money so he/she can afford new strings or to get an amp repaired, would be a fool to let it sit unused. And, more importantly, if people don’t use libraries, they will start to close down in the not too distant future. It’s all there, just for you; use it or lose it.

Hampshire Libraries
Dorset Libraries
Isle of Wight Libraries

All prices based on Portsmouth Library Service fees.

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