your connection to The Boston Globe

CD settlement is music to librarians' ears

Looking for some peace and Quiet Riot at the local library?

Well, if you live in Danvers, your chances of finding heavy metal music on library shelves are about to double. Lawrence Public Library's compact disc collection will soon quadruple. And in Boston, the city's 27 neighborhood library branches should have an extra 10,000 CDs -- ranging from classical to pop to Christmas tunes -- to loan out come May 1.

Overall, Massachusetts' 488 public libraries are in line to receive a trove of 124,000 compact discs this spring, all donated by the music industry in accordance with a national price-fixing lawsuit settlement reached in 2002 that goes into effect this month.

Every library in the state will receive at least 25 new discs from 11 different music genres, said Robert Maier, director of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. But in bigger cities, libraries will experience virtual music explosions, with approximately 500 new CDs allotted for every 30,000 residents.

"It's going to be a real windfall for us. We are due to receive a thousand CDs from this settlement," said Dinah O'Brien, director of the Plymouth Public Library.

According to a formula agreed upon by state officials, Boston's libraries will receive about 10,000 new CDs, increasing its holdings by approximately 15 percent, said Catherine Zannino, media relations manager.

"That's excellent," said Christy Georg, a Jamaica Plain artist who was perusing the Copley Square Library's bins of CDs yesterday, picking out Beethoven and Yo-Yo Ma.

"I went to Virgin records on Newbury Street, but they only let you hear about 20 seconds of a song. If you want to get a feel for a new style of music, [borrowing from the library] is a great way to do it. Plus you don't have to worry about the whole stealing music thing."

Forty states, including Massachusetts, brought an antitrust lawsuit against several major players in the music industry, claiming they prevented stores such as Best Buy from undercutting prices of more traditional music stores, including Tower Records.

As a result, CD prices nationwide began to rise, causing consumers to pay more for music CDs than they otherwise would have, according to Attorney General Thomas Reilly's office.

Industry officials denied any wrongdoing. Nevertheless, they agreed this month to a $142 million settlement in which $75.5 million worth of music compact discs will be distributed to public libraries across the country and another $67.4 million will be given to 3.5 million consumers who joined the class-action suit.

Named in the lawsuit were music distributors Bertelsmann Music Group Inc., EMI Music Distribution, Warner-Elektra-Atlantic Corp., Sony Music Entertainment Inc., Universal Music Group, and national retail chains Transworld Entertainment Corp., Tower Records, and Musicland Stores Corp.

In Massachusetts, starting this week, some 68,000 consumers will each receive a check for $13.86.

But the settlement's real benefit to the public, librarians said, will be the CDs that end up in libraries, as they will be available to any resident in the Commonwealth with a public library card.

"I think anything that causes people to say, `Hey, wait a minute. I want to check out my local library,' is a good thing," said Tom Jewell, director of the Waltham Public Library and a former music reviewer.

"It doesn't cost anything to get a library card. We think of ourselves as the best bargain going. And with the resources we have gotten over the past few years, the bargain has only gotten better."

More than 1,900 CD titles comprising 11 different genres, including Christmas tunes and salsa, will be distributed to libraries by a private distribution firm designated by the settlement, Maier said.

While individual libraries will each receive a wide selection of material, they will not be allowed to choose specific titles, and may very well receive duplicate CDs of music already in their collections.

While Maier did not have an up-to-date list of CD titles, he said he believed that popular music -- from Coldplay to Elvis, as well as some rap titles with parental advisories -- will be part of the allotment.

"It would be a shame if they just fobbed off on us product they can't sell," said Jewell, who has built his library's collection to about 7,000 titles. "If we were to get another copy of Beyonce or Justin Timberlake, or, saints preserve us, Britney Spears, that would be fine. But I hope there's some children's CD on the list, or Disney or Sesame Street. Those take quite a beating, so we'd be happy to get extra copies of them."

Javier Corredor, director of Lawrence's library, which is set to see its meager collection of 250 CDs jump to 1,500, said he was pleased to hear that more Caribbean salsa and merengue music would be coming his way. At the Dudley Square Branch, director Elaine James was praying for gospel.

"For this community, gospel would be the thing," she said.

Other librarians noted that the CDs could not be arriving at a better time, as demand for music among patrons is exploding -- Waltham has a monthlong waiting list for loans on new releases -- while library budgets are being drawn ever tighter due to the state's fiscal crisis.

O'Brien, director of Plymouth's library, said she was confident that patrons would continue to obey posted notices forbidding them from copying loaned music onto their personal computers, or burning illegal CDs -- but offered no guarantees.

"We have great faith in our patrons, but we can't follow them home with the materials," she said.

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives