There may not be such a thing as a free lunch — as Dylan observed, “It may be the devil, it may be the Lord, you’ve got to serve somebody” — but, where music is concerned, there are free resources, and the public library is a good place to start.
No matter what your preferred genre, there are plentiful recordings on cassette or CD in most library systems. The only problem is figuring out which ones are where. To a greater extent than many folks realize, collections at individual libraries in a system reflect the taste of the resident librarians and insistent (or generous) patrons, and this seems to be even more true of music than it is of books.
• Pack Memorial Library — CDs include a lot of classical plus a good collection of pop and rock, not very strong in jazz. Pack has Buncombe’s best collection of music business books, including Confessions of a Record Producer: How to Survive the Scams and Shams of the Music Business (Moses Avalon — a pseudonym, Backbeat Books, 1998); All You Need to Know About the Music Business (Donald S. Passman, Simon & Schuster, 2000); and Making it in the Music Business: The Business and Legal Guide for Songwriters and Performers (Lee Wilson, Plume, 1995) among many other titles.
Elsewhere in the Asheville-Buncombe Library System:
• North Asheville — The North branch has an extensive collection of alt-rock CDs and indie pop CDs, courtesy of a hip young librarian who was into that kind of music.
• Black Mountain — The eastern-most branch tries to offer something in every genre.
• East Asheville Branch — The branch on Tunnel Road is strong in classical and jazz.
• Fairview — This library is particularly strong in classical because of a number of donations and also has a copy of The Complete Handbook of Songwriting: An Insider’s Guide to Making It in the Music Industry (Mark, Cathy & Cindy Liggett, Penguin Books, 1993).
• Leicester — This relatively new branch has a well-rounded collection, particularly in American music, but is weak in classical and world music.
• West Asheville — You’ll find a good selection of traditional folk, including Smithsonian Folkways titles and anthologies. Also, the librarian orders titles from the Top 200 in Rolling Stone and the annual top 100 from WNCW 88.7FM. Their weakest area is jazz.
Across county lines
• Haywood County Public Library (Waynesville) — This library has hundreds and hundreds of books about the history and business of various kinds of music, from old-time to jazz to hip-hop — most of it donated from a kind benefactor who was a musician. There is a music section four times the size of that in Pack Memorial and lots of CDs.
• Henderson County Public Library (Hendersonville) — Henderson has a balanced collection of CDs from opera to current pop and country. Thanks to a collection donated by WHKP some years ago they have a wide selection of older pop.
It’ll cost you
If you have a few bucks to spend, here are some more sources:
• Atlantic Books and Folk Art, 15 Broadway (255-7654) — With a solid double bookshelf full of used and classic volumes on every aspect of music and the music business, this is a deep source of professional info.
• Downtown Books & News, 67 N. Lexington Ave. (253-8654) — Music books go out about as fast as they arrive at DBN (so, stay tuned!), but it offers the best selection of magazines for musicians in the region, including rootsy magazines like Old-Time Herald.
• Harvest Records, 415B Haywood Road, West Asheville (258-2999) — Harvest carries some of the artier, punkier music rags unavailable elsewhere.
— Cecil Bothwell