Amplify 817 is a music-streaming platform designed to promote Fort Worth-based musicians and allow the community to find local music and listen to it for free. When the Fort Worth Public Library launched the initiative on Feb. 14, 2020, we were challenged to market a service that few libraries provide, while realizing the core audience for the program stretches beyond our typical patron base. 

The annual Visit Fort Worth luncheon provided the event at which Amplify 817 was presented to 800+ influential members of the community. Each table featured a 3D cardboard “amplifier” centerpiece branded with the Amplify 817 logo and a brief description of the program. Sponsors of the luncheon whose support helped fund the cost of printing the mini amps were displayed on the amp as well.

We created an “All Access Pass” similar to a backstage concert pass, complete with a lanyard. Affixed on the front was a specially printed metal library card branded with “Amplify 817.” On the back were instructions on how to use the library card, along with a longer description of the Amplify 817 program. Additional branded collateral included amplifier coasters, guitar picks and a small poster. Staff members who served as program ambassadors at the event wore matching rock inspired Amplify 817 T-shirts.

Our promotional space outside of the ballroom featured a larger-than-life backdrop that was designed to look like an oversized amplifier (again branded with “Amplify 817”). The first four musical acts accepted into Amplify 817 were present for a meet-and-greet with guests and to take photos in front of the backdrop. The launch efforts were well-received by the musicians, the community and our partners.

The uniqueness of the program to our area helped us land several key media placements, which helped expand the reach of the initial launch. Fort Worth is part of the fifth largest media market in the United States and breaking into the competitive news cycle was very important for our message reach. Additionally, an in-depth story with our CBS affiliate gained reach as far as Houston.

While building an audience for Amplify 817, we knew events at live music venues would be key to sustaining the excitement. However, a month after the launch, COVID-19 forced venues to temporarily close, forcing us to pivot to nearly exclusive online and social media marketing.

Overall, the real successes from the campaign have come in engaging with Fort Worth citizens who don’t always think of the Fort Worth Public Library or regularly use our resources.

We were already tuned into out-of-the-box thinking for Amplify 817. We try to keep in mind with all our projects and campaigns that sometimes seemingly crazy ideas are the best ideas, and we can learn a lot from trying new things.

Because in-person concerts were off the table, our staff pre-recorded performances from seven artists staged at two of our libraries –– socially distanced and without in-person audiences. The finished piece was edited as an “Amplified New Year’s Eve” and live streamed on YouTube. It was a heavy lift for our small staff, but it was worth our efforts to evoke a live music environment and showcase some of the diverse talent featured on Amplify 817. At the same time, we recorded interviews and specific performances for our “Off The Record” videos in which our music librarian interviews local artists about their music and influences.

The initiative’s marketing is evolving as we’ve been through two more rounds of adding additional artists to the Amplify 817 family in 2021. The look and feel of our graphics is changing, but still evokes the “cool” factor we began with. We have recorded additional “Off The Record” episodes, and new in 2021, we use our “Library News” blog to highlight the new artists with music-review style posts. We now have dedicated social media accounts for Amplify 817, but we often share posts from them on the library’s main feeds.

As an ongoing effort, we share artist graphics on our various social media platforms, along with photos, blog posts, links to Amplify 817 pages and “Off The Record” promos or episodes in which they are featured. They are encouraged to share pieces on their social media.

Overall, the real successes from the campaign have come in engaging with Fort Worth citizens who don’t always think of the Fort Worth Public Library or regularly use our resources. We are strengthening our relationships with those in the local music industry and helping to create a stronger collaboration between artists in an environment where that was already becoming normal. Striving to serve the entire city is a major goal of our strategic plan through supporting arts and culture and community vitality. We recognize that local musicians are essentially small business owners, and a better climate for entrepreneurship can help boost the city’s economy.

The grant from our John Cotton Dana Award is being used to enhance our future library marketing projects.

Learn about our other John Cotton Dana Award winners and how to apply when submissions open.