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Research & Scholarship

Searching for Streaming Media, Part 1: Music

July 14th, 2015 by Rachel Fox Von Swearingen

Streaming content is a daily part of our information consumption. We share videos and files on social media, we stream music using Pandora or Spotify, and we even harness YouTube for streaming historical sound recordings of speeches, radio advertisements, and music performances. Given this proliferation of access free on the internet, you might be left wondering about SU Libraries and what we have to offer. This is the first in a short series of blog posts that will address what types of streaming media are available, what is unique, and some tips on the best way to access it. To start out, we’ll discuss streaming music.

The Libraries get content to streaming music and sound recordings through licensing collections from several vendors. These vendors negotiate deals with many different record labels or content creators, such as EMI, Folkways Records, and the Metropolitan Opera, and then they pool recordings into collections themed around music genres or other categories. The Libraries’ license these recordings so that they stream to our users for free, so that you can play tracks on demand from home or campus.


A big player in library streaming music is Naxos. For classical music, a popular option that many people have heard about is Naxos Music Library. It contains the complete Naxos, Marco Polo and Da Capo catalogs, in addition to other classical labels, and it currently totals over 110,000 whole CDs. SU Libraries’ also subscribes to Naxos Music Library Jazz, which features recordings from Blue Note Records, Warner Jazz, Fantasy Jazz, and others. The two collections are searched through two different portals for the time being, and access is provided on both the album and track level. You just type in keywords for work, title, composer, or performer and play the tracks you want.

One of the best kept secrets about Naxos is its two mobile apps (one for classical, one for jazz), which let you search and stream on your phone or tablet. Configure your app for access using your SU Net ID and password to get started with streaming on demand, not just what Pandora and Spotify deliver to you with a free account.

Alexander Street Press

Another large streaming provider is Alexander Street Press. They provide collections themed around many different genres, from popular to classical, all searchable from one unified interface. Classical Music Library and Jazz Music Library provide recordings from main labels such as EMI, Chandos, Jazzology, Impulse, and hundreds of others. Unique content includes Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz Radio Broadcasts and previously unreleased performances from the Monterey Jazz Festival and other venues. Smithsonian Global Sound includes the published recordings of Smithsonian Folkways Records as well as many ethnographic recordings from Africa and South Asia. American Song and Contemporary World Music cover popular, traditional and folk music from the Americas and beyond. Genres spanned include reggae, blues, folk, Bollywood, flamenco and more.

Alexander Street Press collections have some additional features beyond those available in Naxos. When you play a track from Alexander Street press, remember to open the PDF of the liner notes! It is linked just above the album cover on each playback page. Also, you can generate a citation in MLA or Chicago or other formats, and you can toggle the search interface into different languages using an embedded widget from Google Translate.

The best feature for collections by Alexander Street Press is the enhanced browsing. You can browse recordings by time period or instrumentation for classical works, by genre or topic for popular music, and by geographic area or cultural group for ethnographic or world music recordings. These facets as well as additional ones are available to limit search results as well. For example, you can choose if a person from your keyword search was the composer or the conductor of a work, or limit by key. The browsing categories are specialized for each collection, so be sure to use the individual collection portals from the Libraries’ database menu to maximize your browsing capabilities.

DRAM & Met Opera

The Libraries’ also have two streaming collections that are focused on the output of specific labels or content providers. The Database of Recorded American Music, commonly known as DRAM, is a small but important collection for study of 20th and 21st century American art music. It exclusively contains recordings from New World Records, which are not licensed in other databases. Browsing by composer is available, and one of its key features is the robust collection of liner notes and scholarly essays.

Met Opera On Demand is the Met Opera’s exclusively licensed streaming collection designed for libraries. Besides the wildly popular streaming video from their HD broadcasts, the collection also contains classic telecasts from the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, and hundreds of radio broadcasts dating back to 1936. To browse all the content, keep scrolling down on the home page to get to an alphabetical list by opera.

Playlist Features

As an added service, collections from Naxos and Alexander Street Press feature the ability to make playlists. Faculty can create a specific list of recordings to share with a class, thus replacing textbook CD sets for listening assignments. Or, students can make their own lists for personal use. For more information on creating playlists, check out the online library guide for streaming audio.

Searching in Summon

An important tip that shouldn’t be overlooked is that much of this content is searchable in Summon, the main search box on the Libraries’ home page. Collections from Naxos and Alexander Street press are searchable here, along with the Libraries’ physical CD and LP collections. In all, Summon is searching over 225,000 CDs via streaming as well as the roughly 35,000 physical recordings in Bird Library. On the search results page, limit to content type of “Music Recording” on the left, and look for search results with the orange “online” banner for streaming titles. Search results can be for individual tracks, whole works, or whole CDs. For content from DRAM and the Metropolitan Opera, though, remember to search those databases separately.

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