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Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 09/07/96

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

Masters of their domain

Although the Web is not, as we know, actually that old, it's had information about individual musical acts on it for a long time. Much of the best of it is sourced from even older forums, like mailing lists and newsgroups. It's even been a while since record companies put up their own official sites, complete with an amnesiac trend towards never adding any new information except when a new release is absolutely imminent.

A more recent and all-pervasive trend, though, has been the band with its own domain. Who wants to remember a long and complicated URL with the word 'Sony' in it when you can go straight to the artist? While this may be little more than a cheap marketing trick for information which still resides on the record company's server, it shows that somebody is taking the Web somewhat seriously. Four such sites that I'm vaguely familiar with demonstrate how different the approaches taken are, though.

At one extreme, and well worth recommending, is the Shakespears Sister site at http://www.shakespears-sister.com. At the moment, it offers nothing but a sample from the the new single, 'I Can Drive' (which I thoroughly recommend you purchase, by the way). A running strip down the bottom informs us that the site is, of course, under construction, like the forthcoming album. In a rare moment of graciousness, it also offers a link to the unofficial Shakespears Sister home page at http://whirligig.ecs.soton.ac.uk/~ajg94/sha/smain.html. Interviews and other goodies are promised as an incentive for future visits.

While ver Sister has quite a marketing campaign behind it (there's an invitation to join a snailmail list in the CD single as well), some artists are more dependent on their Web site as a key marketing tool. One prime example is Duran Duran bass player John Taylor, who is promoting his solo album Feelings Are Good And Other Lies. Buried within his excellent site at http://www.johntaylor.com/ (run by longtime Duran supporter Kapil Mathur) are journal extract, audio files, background information and a chat-room facility which Mr Taylor (his real name is Nigel) visits regularly. I recommend the album, and I also recommend that you buy it through this site rather than pay the $60 one local Sydney record shop is charging for it.

If you think that's obscure, though, get right on over to the Juice Newton home page at http://www.juicenewton.com. You may have thought that Ms Newton's career began and ended with 'Queen Of Hearts' and 'Angel Of The Morning' in the early 1980s. In that case, you will probably be shocked to learn she has a duets album on the cards, featuring such luminaries as the Pointer Sisters and Melissa Manchester. T-shirts are also available, and may become kitsch collectibles.

When it gets worrying is when you realise an artist you really don't like has a halfway decent Web site named after them. The Bryan Adams page at http://www.bryanadams.com/ is a case in point. I don't think Bryan's done anything really worthy since Reckless, but the site has some depth (of an admittedly sanitised kind). Although you do have to wonder about a song where Bryan expresses his desire to be a piece of lingerie.

Still, it could be worse. The minute that links to http://www.michael-bolton.com, http://www.james-last.com or http://www.celine-dion.org actually work, we'll know that there's a real problem and we'll run for more cartons of beer if we've got any sense.

While we've been spared all of them so far, there are doubtless millions more of these little wonders out there. In the end, though, I don't know that they'll ever completely replace the non-commercial, dedicated sites put together by fans, even if they do have groovy domain names.

The problem with the 'official' band site is that it tends to be filtered through the band's PR machine. The information fans really want -- scurillous gossip, rare B-side details and endless discussions about hair colour -- just don't tend to make it in that environment. At least we have email and home pages to share it all around. Can you honestly claim you look at the Men Without Hats page as often as you should?


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