NFCB Conference – Digital Libraries Notes

The following are my mental notes for the 2017 NFCB conference ‘Digital Libraries’ panel.

Before You Start

Why do you want to Digitize?

We all know we have to ‘go digital’, but what is your goal

  • My board told me to
  • Make a ‘backup’ of the CD library, to protect from disaster
  • Not having to lug a box full of CD’s into the studio
  • Not having to find and pull all those CD’s from the library
  • Not having those CD’s ‘disappear’ from the library

These are all great, but also consider this:

  • How does this digital library enable you to curate content in ways that you couldn’t before?
  • How does this digital library enable you to create other streams of content besides your current broadcast signal?

How are you going to play your shiny new digital library on air?

Automation systems are great for exactly that, automating playout.

  • Not geared to the random playback of tracks
  • Require training, which could prove challenging for volunteer hosts.

What are the alternatives?

How are your hosts going to use your shiny new digital library?

How can you provide your hosts with access to your library so they can use it to review content and prep for their shows.

Should be able to do this without having to come into the station.

Should be able to leverage this so that we can increase our pool of people that are willing to volunteer to create a show.

Notes around Metadata

Good metadata is expensive. Apple can pay to include metadata in iTunes, but free and inexpensive programs not so much.

MusicBrainz and Discogs are great free sources of metadata, but we need to be prepared to help create/maintain these resources.

What level of metadata do you need to accomplish your goal

How can we get the labels to up their game about providing good metadata.

How do we deal with not having that CD and all associated liner notes sitting in front of you when you play that track.


Send your CDs to a Service

+ Gets it done

– $$$ up front.

– You lose your library for a period of time

– Shipping Costs

– Quality Control

Do it In House

+ Less $$$ up front

+ You don’t lose your library

+ You can prioritize/control order of digitizing

+ & – You control the quality

– Time

– You need someone to quarterback the process, this is tough if it’s yet another job for someone

The Process

See Ripping CDs is Easy, Right?

A Tale of Two Stations


“Where the Music Matters” – Associated with the University of Washington, but holds their license independently.

All content is host curated, only requirement are that they play a minimum number of tracks from current rotation and one local artist per hour.


45 Hosts

40+K CD’s

Using Dalet for Playout

Have a dedicated Media Asset Librarian – Dylan Flesch

Music Director reviews all music and decides on adds/rotations.

Use a combination of interns from the Univ. of Washington i-school and volunteers

All content is being stored as lossless FLAC files


Started with Library – picked the hardest genre – Hip Hop, to start with.

Use MusicBrainz for metadata, so all commercial CD’s are entered into MusicBrainz

All tracks are already FCC reviewed, and labeled with Red and Yellow dots (Tomatoes and Bananas)

Library Content

Using two loaders, rip up to 100 CD’s in each loader at a time

Reviewer uses Tomato Banana to review each CD, mark red and yellow dots

If no metadata was found, enters the information into MusicBrainz, and then pulls that information into Tomato Banana

When done reviewing the batch, files are then run through a process to ingest them into Dalet and assign genres, rotation status

New Content – Full CD’s

Goes through the same process as Library Content

Also have a program that parses the weekly new adds email and attaches these reviews to albums and tracks.

New Content – Singles/Digital Downloads

Referred to as ‘Hitters’, this used to be a pain and would only get processed every couple of weeks

Now the MD downloads these, adds them to MusicBrainz, runs them through TB, and ingests them into Dalet daily.

This has been a huge boon in getting DJ’s to use Dalet – they want that new content for their show, and since it’s not on CD, they will try using Dalet.

  • Training volunteers to properly enter information in MusicBrainz, keeping the MusicBrainz editors happy.
  • Getting hosts to use Dalet instead of CD’s.
  • Giving more of their hosts access to the library.
  • Started in earnest at the beginning of 2016, once KEXP had moved into their new home.
  • Currently have 18000 CDs digitized.
  • Have 60+ hours of volunteer time per week working on the project
  • Now ripping 1000+ CDs a week
  • Dylan spends about 15 hours/week managing the processes.
  • Have multiple robots that they use, one started running into problems at just under 10,000 CDs.


“News and Ideas” – associated with and license held by Bellevue College

Dual Format – Morning News, Democracy Now, Thomm Hartman. Afternoon music with staff hosts, evening speciality programming using volunteer hosts.


50+ Hosts

30+K CD’s

Using Enco DAD for automation.

Music Director leads the effort, but this is just one of many responsibilities.

MD and volunteer hosts review music to determine if it should go into rotation.

Using Work Study students and volunteers


Starting with new content.

Next will be content that is being used on the afternoon shows and needs to be put into Enco.

And then finally moving on to the Library.

Not tieing metadata to MusicBrainz, as KEXP did (don’t have the resources to do this).

New Content

The goal is to streamline the process of reviewing new content by ripping all CD’s and putting them into a cloud based music management system (Record Bins) that the hosts can use to review the new content as well as use for show prep.

All new CD’s are ripped

  • Pulling metadata from MusicBrainz, Discogs, and paying for GD3 lookups ($0.125/CD)
  • Getting a very low hit rate for new CD’s

Using Tomato Banana to review, and also data enter content that has no metadata

Content is processed and put into a couple of locations

  • FLAC version of the file is stored on a server that the college’s maintains
  • 128kb mp3 are pushed into the cloud so the can be listened from anywhere.
Afternoon/Enco Content

Afternoon shows are pre programmed using Music Master, so we know what content we need.

We can either set a flag in Tomato Banana that will cause tracks to be sent to Enco, or we can publish to Enco from Record Bins.


Expecting this to look the same as new content ingestion.



Working with college IT slows the process down as there were several system upgrades we needed to get done before we could proceed.

We still don’t have a solution for playback by volunteer hosts. Maybe Enco, but skeptical.

  • May build a simple audio player tied to Record Bins that will play a trimmed/normalized high quality MP3 stored on the local network.
  • Need a multi-channel solution to properly crossfade tracks, that’s real work
  • Could we just use a consumer oriented music player (iTunes, jRiver, etc…)

Focus – KBCS does not have dedicated staff, nor the volunteer support that KEXP does.

  • Started the process in the fall of 2016
  • Are only now starting to work on the new content, our progress is measured in the 100’s of CDs, not the 1000s.
  • Learning as we go.  We’re still figuring it out.

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