Austin Public Library tunes into the best local music with Electric Lady Bird
Despite Austin’s musical proliferation, it’s hard to find its most unique, connected artists all in one place. Thankfully, if you have an insatiable desire to discover new local artists, the Austin Public Library presents Electric Lady Bird, a curated streaming service just for Austin artists.
Every year, the library accepts up to 100 albums from Austin-based groups for the catalog. The submissions must have been released within the past two years, and each selected album is licensed by the library for a three-year period. Some of the selections are also included in playlists to help sort the 253 records. Playlist names range from the obvious, “Austin Country and Americana,” to the indecipherable, “Spiral Stairs on S. Congress.”
On June 21, Make Music Day, Electric Lady Bird launched its free virtual concert series, featuring artists from the collection. The first featured artist, Mobley, is all over the Austin music scene, both as a well-publicized rock musician and a juror on the Electric Lady Bird selection panel. Mobley’s performance was recorded in advance at the event center in the Central Library.
While the Electric Lady Bird streaming collection has been around since 2018 with live performances the whole time, the virtual concert series is new, as a response to COVID-19 restrictions and the recent trend of bringing concerts online. Even now, the only people in attendance are the musicians and the necessary personnel for producing each performance. (You can watch Mobley's performance here.)
“It’s sort of our take on the NPR Tiny Desk concerts,” says Sharon Herfurth, division manager at the library’s office of programs and partnerships.
Mobley joins 10 other jurors on the Electric Lady Bird panel, which includes other musicians, various industry professionals, a historian, and a radio host. According to the website, the jurors rate each work by “quality, diversity, regional promotional activity, and general connection to the Austin music scene.”
The latter consideration seems lenient, and it doesn’t limit the collection to big names. In fact, there is some challenging listening throughout, and one wonderful Americana band only shows six monthly listeners on Spotify. The catalog also includes more established acts like The Bright Light Social Hour and Ley Line, as well as a warning that it values “diversity of thought,” and may feature tracks that some find controversial.
Although the system sounds like a uniquely Austin idea, this library is one of 14 using the open-source streaming platform built by Madison, Wisconsin startup Rabble. Seattle and Nashville are among the big cities bringing their music to the project.
Submissions for the next round of Austin artists are open through the month of September, with new albums joining the collection in November or December. The rest of the lineup for Austin’s virtual series, which concludes in August, includes Aaron McDonnell, Atlas Maior, The Belle Sounds, Riders Against the Storm, Como Las Movies, and The Joe Jacksons.
These concerts represent some of the best taste in Austin, so crack open whatever Austin drinks you have on hand and get familiar with some of the best talent to bring up at cookouts, parties and wherever sharing great music is valued.