Library Tip: Freegal

The Worcester Public Library offers one free audio download a week via Freegal.

Freegal is a product where libraries can buy a subscription that allows patrons to download so many DRM-free MP3s per week for free; the songs are mostly from the Sony back catalog.  In the case of the WPL, it’s one download per week.  (If you’re interested in the pros and cons of Freegal, I recommend this blog post and its comments.)

You can get to Freegal by going to the Digital Downloads link from the left hand side of the main library page, then scrolling down to the e-music section and clicking the Freegal link.  Use your library card number and password to sign in.

I hadn’t started using Freegal regularly until quite recently; I’d downloaded the two songs I really wanted on my iPod (my favorite dance remix of Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” and NKOTBSB’s “Don’t Turn Out the Lights”; I never said I had good taste in music) but found the interface (and the Sony-only catalog) to be more annoying than it was worth.

Then I realized that Cheap Trick’s older albums are on Sony, and that for some reason I never bought Dream Police or All Shook Up, and then I realized the whole Hall and Oates back catalog is on Sony as well.  That’s enough to keep me using it for months.

One of the best finds I’ve had on Freegal has been a recording of Wagner’s Parsifal with Hans Knappertsbusch conducting (I think it’s the 1951 recording, but I could be wrong).  Each act of the opera comes as one download, so you get an hour’s (or more) worth of music in one MP3.  (I’ve been wanting to listen to Parsifal for years, and the library’s copy had been damaged, so this is serendipity for me.)

If you’ve been using Freegal, how do you find it?

On a related note, Tracy and I saw that the Iowa City Public Library has partnered with local musicians to make their albums free for library patrons.

They pay about $100 for the rights to the album for two years.  I am not sure how much the WPL is paying for Freegal (though I’d be interested in seeing both what we pay and how much it’s used, and will start asking about it at a future library board meeting), but I like the idea of the library supporting local musicians (both financially and by introducing them to a wider audience).

The Iowa City Public Library has a sample contract on their site and they’re willing to answer questions about how other libraries can set up a similar service.

So — more to come (I hope) on how we could perhaps do something similar to Iowa City.

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