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Hennepin County Library Introduces MnSpin, A Streaming Platform For Minnesota Artists

Minnesota musicians can now connect with audiences through a platform called MnSpin, an online collection of Minnesota music overseen by local experts through the Hennepin County Library.

Earlier this year, the Hennepin County Library introduced an online collection of music which was written, recorded, and released entirely by Minnesota-based musicians. The goal of the project is to raise awareness of all the incredible music which is currently being created in Minnesota, while also assisting these local bands during the long and grueling process it can be to achieve mass appeal.

To be eligible for the platform, the majority of band members must currently be performing and living in Minnesota. Albums must have been produced in the past five years. The musicians must also own or control all rights to everything uploaded. Selected artists sign a license agreement, and receive $200 to make their album available to library users. The music is available to stream or download.

Last summer, more than 325 artists each submitted one song for evaluation. Our curator team selected 60 artists to participate, the maximum our budget would allow. These musicians were asked to submit at least three more songs and sign a license. The license allows the library to use their music for two years with the artists retaining all rights. MnSpin launched for the first time with 55 artists in. Each musician was paid $200 per album, with funding from the Friends of the Hennepin County Library, our foundation partner.

Shortly after its launch, we had the opportunity to sit down with it’s founders and ask them a few questions in an effort to learn more about this project, as well as find out how we all could get involved!


What is MnSpin?

MnSpin is Hennepin County Library’s new online music streaming and download platform. Library staffers and administration wanted to create a collection that focused on Minnesota music, which would be a new stage for emerging and established musicians. We recognize  many artists now only create music digitally, no longer dropping CD’s for patrons to check out, and wanted to make music convenient to access this way.

Where can one find and listen to MnSpin?

Visit the platform here or browse from the Hennepin County Library website. Library cardholders may download music and anybody, anywhere can stream. Library cards are free.

Who is behind MnSpin? How is the team comprised? How did MnSpin come together and where is it today? How many artists/bands are currently involved? Are artists offered compensation for their work?

A little background: I’ve been a music and art librarian since about 2005, working in the music department at Hennepin County’s Minneapolis Central Library. We’ve got the biggest and coolest collection of sheet music, scores, musicals, instruction books, music bios, etc., of any library in the Midwest other than the University of Minnesota. I’ve worked with lots of musicians – local  artists such as Maria Jette, Paul Metsa, Vern Sutton, Prudence Johnson and Maud Hixson, and national musicians and composers as well, such as Marc Shaiman and Vince Giordano of Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. When they’re in town, national acts come to us either looking for a rare music piece they found in our catalog or for sheet music to play. For example, when the Nighthawks used to be on Prairie Home companion, they’d  send somebody from the show over to pick up some music for their performance.

As a music librarian, I’m also totally up on what a very cool, diverse music scene we have in Minnesota. Hennepin County Library, as an institution, really strives to represent the diversity of all of our patrons, and that includes the music they play and enjoy.

It’s important to keep in mind  as well that musicians aren’t making money like they used to. One big reason is that streaming has taken over as the channel everybody uses to get their music. Artists literally make pennies for thousands of streams. Cd sales are tanking too. One guy told me that he put out an album once that paid for a new swimming pool in his backyard. Now with so little money coming in from streaming, he can’t even put water in the pool!

So, at a conference  I heard about a project developed by a music librarian down in Iowa. Like me, he knew a lot of musicians. He went around to bars and other venues and solicited musicians to send him zip files and he posted them on his library’s website. Since I’m a librarian and get paid to do research, I jumped on the Google machine to see if any  other libraries were doing something similar.  Eureka! It turned out Edmonton, Madison and Seattle had been working with a vendor, called Rabble, which specializes in just what we wanted: a company that works with public libraries to allow local musicians to post their music on library websites.

I spent a lot of time after that emailing and phone interviewing staff at libraries and at Rabble. It didn’t take long to figure out we could work with this vendor. I wrote a proposal and sent it to my boss, who sent it to hers. The head of the Central Library was very supportive as well. Soon we were in serious talks about how to make the project work, which has been quite a complex task, especially since we had to create something very original from the ground up.

The first item on the list was to form a team. Hennepin County library has specialists in many fields, all of which were useful in getting MnSpin up and running. This included project management, collection development, vendor communication, web services and community engagement (that’s me!). We also coordinated with other departments of the library and county: Communication, Finance and Legal, etc.

There were tons of questions to be asked and decisions to be made. We did a lot of brainstorming using what I learned from the experts at the other libraries and Rabble. These ranged from the simple to the complex:

  • What to name the project and how to do it.
  • How to protect the brand?
  • How to create a license for the musicians?
  • How to form a curator team?
  • How much to pay the musicians?
  • How to work with the submission, jurying and other aspects of the workflow developed by the vendor?

We tracked our decisions, wrote a timeline and developed a process to accomplish each phase of the project. Working in stages, we developed MnSpin and prepared for launching our first submission period.

Last summer, more than 325 artists each submitted one song for evaluation. Our curator team selected 60 artists to participate, the maximum our budget would allow. These musicians were asked to submit at least three more songs and sign a license. The license allows the library to use their music for two years with the artists retaining all rights. MnSpin launched for the first time with 55 artists in. Each musician was paid $200 per album, with funding from the Friends of the Hennepin County Library, our foundation partner.

We just finished our second submission period in March 2018. A new curator team is just starting to evaluate this new batch of songs. We’re planning our second launch in late summer, with as many as 80 musicians, selected from about 300 new submissions.

How do artists submit their work? What genres are involved?

Interested musicians should visit the  MnSpin website. I’d encourage them to explore the platform, including the FAQ and “About” links. During the submission period, there is also a link to upload one song for evaluation, a player to hear the song and links to select a genre, submit bio info and load images.

Are there rules for submitting music?

Guidelines are available on the website.

These include:

  • Submitted songs must be created in the past five years.
  • Musicians must live or perform in Minnesota.
  • Hennepin County employees aren’t allowed to participate
  • Artists between ages 15 and 17 need to have a parent or guardian sign the license. Artists younger than 15 are not eligible.

Where can one find and listen to these albums?

The albums can be found here!

What is the reason for limiting submissions?

The budget is set up to allow a certain number of artists for each submission period.

What is the ultimate goal of the project?

To provide a new channel for library users to experience interesting, diverse music made by Minnesota musicians, to connect the library to the local music scene and to provide financial assistance to musicians.


Funding for MnSpin is provided by Friends of the Hennepin County Library, an active community of 8,000 supporters whose mission is to build awareness, appreciation and support for our world-class library. Friends of HCL raises resources for vital programs such as Teen Tech Squad and Homework Help, as well as initiatives like engaging readers of all ages and expanding early learning environments. Together, Hennepin County Library and Friends of HCL envision a library system that ensures every person has the opportunity and resources to read, engage, graduate, work, and learn.

Managing Editor & Social Media Admin for Music In Minnesota. Graduated Valedictorian of my class from IPR – College of Creative Arts with an A.A.S. in Music & Entertainment Business. ICON Award Winner. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Written by Justin Bailey

Managing Editor & Social Media Admin for Music In Minnesota. Graduated Valedictorian of my class from IPR - College of Creative Arts with an A.A.S. in Music & Entertainment Business. ICON Award Winner. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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