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locdown - The Library of Congress Downloader

locdown is a command-line tool that can fetch audio and scrape metadata from the Library of Congress Jukebox.

Table of Contents


The Library of Congress website has a "Jukebox" section that provides free access to over ten thousand tracks of historically significant music — unfortunately, it requires Adobe Flash to play audio. Virtually all modern browsers block Flash by default, some don't support it at all, and many people (myself included) actively avoid Flash for privacy and security reasons. As such, the majority of Americans today will find themselves unable to use the core functionality of the Jukebox, which in my mind flies in the face of its stated goal "to present to the widest audience possible early commercial sound recordings" (emphasis mine).

I designed locdown as an alternative interface to the LoC Jukebox website. The tool simply takes the information that's already on the site and reformats it in a more open and accessible way.

locdown has three modes.

  • Stream Jukebox recordings in the operating system's native media player. A player with RTMP support is required; VLC is a popular choice.
  • Scrape recording information in JSON format, including links to related pages (e.g. those of the musicians, composer, and lyricist), which can be helpful for academic cross-referencing.
  • Download recordings to a file and tag them with details scraped from the website (if you have permission to do so; see the legal disclaimer below).


usage: locdown [-h] [-m MAX_CONNECTIONS] action ...

Fetch audio and metadata from the Library of Congress Jukebox

positional arguments:
    stream              Stream audio in your OS's local media player.
    scrape              Scrape audio metadata.
    download            Download audio.

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
                        The maximum number of simultaneous connections to
                        make. Defaults to 10.

Stream mode

usage: locdown stream [-h] [-b BITRATE] [-p] recording [recording ...]

positional arguments:
  recording             The recording(s) to stream.

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -b BITRATE, --bitrate BITRATE
                        Desired bitrate, in kbps. Can be 128 or 320. Defaults
                        to 320.
  -p, --print           Print stream URLs instead of opening them.

Scrape mode

usage: locdown scrape [-h] [-s] [-r] [-j] [-d DEST] recording [recording ...]

positional arguments:
  recording             The recording(s) to scrape.

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -s, --shallow         When scraping an artist's details page, only use the
                        recording information available on that page; don't
                        fetch the full details for those recordings.
  -r, --artist-dirs     Save artist information as a directory containing
                        individual JSON files for each recording, rather than
                        the default of a single JSON file.
  -j, --save-json       Save individual JSON data files for each recording
                        instead of printing.
  -d DEST, --dest DEST  Destination directory for downloaded data files. Use
                        with the -s flag.

Download mode

usage: locdown download [-h] [-d DEST] [-b BITRATE] [-t] [-a] [-p] [-j] [-r]
                        recording [recording ...]

positional arguments:
  recording             The recording(s) to download.

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -d DEST, --dest DEST  Destination directory for downloaded recordings and
                        data files.
  -b BITRATE, --bitrate BITRATE
                        Desired bitrate (128 or 320). Defaults to 320.
  -t, --tag             Tag the downloaded recording(s).
  -a, --art             Download album art, if available, and embed it in the
  -p, --print           Print JSON data for the recording(s); same as the
                        `scrape` action.
  -j, --save-json       Save individual JSON data files alongside each
  -r, --artist-dirs     For each artist ID specified, save all of the artists'
                        recordings in artist-specific directories.
  --disclaimer          Show the disclaimer displayed when download mode is
                        first used.

Specifying Recording and Artist IDs

The recordings on which to operate can be specified in numerous ways. Any number of the following ID formats (separated by spaces) can be provided in the recordings... argument of all three modes.

  1. The URL of the details page for a recording or artist:
  2. The ID found in the details page URL: 1234
  3. A dash-separated range of IDs: 100-120
  4. One or more randomly-selected IDs: randomN for N IDs, e.g. random10. random1 can be abbreviated as random.

locdown also accepts artist IDs. In stream and download mode, providing an artist ID is equivalent to providing all the IDs of the recordings credited to that artist (which may be a very large number of items; be careful!). In scrape mode, locdown will scrape information about the artist, with a list of all the artist's recordings included as a sub-element of that data. By default, each recording in the list will have its information scraped in full, as if it had been specified directly by ID. If the -s/--shallow flag is specified, this second level of scraping will be skipped, and each recording entry will contain only what information can be scraped from the artist's recordings list.

Artist IDs are specified as follows:

  1. The URL of the details page for an artist:
  2. Any of the single-item, range-based, and random-item ID formats specified above (#2-4), prefixed with artist::
    • artist:1234
    • artist:100-120
    • artist:randomN


Fetching and tagging a track, including album art, and saving a JSON file containing scraped information.

$ locdown download --tag --art --save-json --dest /tmp 1337

Scraping recording metadata...
✓ 1/1 (100%) [█████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████]
Downloading recordings...
✓ 1/1 (100%) [█████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████]

# Files created:
#   /tmp/1337 - Evan Williams - A dream.json
#   /tmp/1337 - Evan Williams - A dream.mp3

Scraping JSON-formatted data for the track shown above:

$ locdown scrape 1337
    "Artists": {
      "Composer": [
          "Link": "",
          "Name": "J. C. Bartlett"
      "Lyricist": [
          "Link": "",
          "Name": "Charles B. Cory"
      "Tenor vocal": [
          "Link": "",
          "Name": "Evan Williams"
    "Category": "Vocal",
    "Description": "Tenor vocal solo, with orchestra",
    "Duration": "02:54",
    "Genre(s)": "Classical music",
    "Image Link": "",
    "Jukebox ID": 1337,
    "Label Name/Number": "Victor 64078",
    "Language": "English",
    "Link": "",
    "Matrix Number/Take Number": "B-4864/15",
    "Notes": "EDVR vol. II notes that take 1 was listed as by William T. Evans in the recording books, which may indicate it was originally scheduled for Black Label release, but it was issued as a Red Seal and by Evan Williams.",
    "Place of Recording": "Camden, New Jersey",
    "Recording Date": "1913-12-18",
    "Recording Title": "A dream",
    "Size": "10\""


locdown requires the user to accept the terms of following disclaimer before using download mode.

locdown's download functionality is intended for legal use only. The Library of Congress posts the following notice on the details page of each recording:

This recording is protected by state copyright laws in the United States. The Library of Congress has obtained a license from rights holders to offer it as streamed audio only. Downloading is not permitted. The authorization of rights holders of the recording is required in order to obtain a copy of the recording. Contact for more information.

If you use locdown to download a track from the Library of Congress Jukebox, it must be the case that either (a) its rights holders have authorized you to do so, or (b) you know that it is no longer under copyright.

This disclaimer can be displayed at any time by running locdown download --disclaimer.


The Library of Congress Downloader - fetch audio and scrape metadata from




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