Weekly Feature


5 Must-Bookmark Music Sites

November 30, 2009
by Liz Colville
Thousands of bands and singer-songwriters are making names for themselves with or without the help of labels. The Web is instrumental in spreading the word, and blogs, aggregators and multimedia sites are king. We spotlight five music sites that everyone should bookmark, and mention several more worthy contenders.

The Tool: Tourfilter

The Site: A 2007 Webby Award nominee, Tourfilter began in Boston when a group of young music enthusiasts found that they kept missing shows or finding out about them too late. Sound familiar? Tourfilter uses a simple program to compile concert listings in cities across the U.S. as well as some select locations in the U.K., Canada and Australia. Once limited to just a few cities, the site now includes 80 cities, from Aberdeen, Scotland to Wichita, Kansas.
The Trend: Tourfilter is one of a number of sites that use feed-like programming to make things simpler and more accessible to users. It also sends members e-mails alerting them when the bands they love are coming to town. The result is that people are seldom out of touch with the things they’re interested in, and in fact, may find themselves bombarded with options.

Runner-up: Bandloop. Bandloop is a somewhat newer site with a similar goal to Tourfilter’s. It directly connects bands with fans, and will be great once it acquires a larger database of both categories.

The Blog: Daytrotter

The Site: The music blog Daytrotter has been around since 2006, providing fans with bands’ latest music, often prior to official release. Recorded as exclusive “Daytrotter Sessions,” the songs are interspersed with commentary from the artist. The artwork of the blog itself is another enticing quality of the site: each band featured gets its portrait painted.
The Trend: In a vast online universe populated by thousands of blogs that post free mp3s all day, Daytrotter makes online music listening ethical again. It’s a wise alternative to Elbo.ws and Hype Machine; on those sites, you know where a free mp3 is coming from, but not whether the artist actually endorsed its being free.

: Sixeyes. After a redesign some time ago, Sixeyes is looking good and keeping its goal of providing unique and quality songs, but without the context and live format that Daytrotter promises. RCRD LBL is a newcomer in this category that also provides daily quick reviews of legally free mp3s from hot, mostly independent, acts.

The Vlog: Concerts à Emporter

The Site: Concerts à Emporter (“Takeaway Concerts”) is a video blog, or vlog, of exclusive live performances. The site invites music fans into a world of unique and promising shows by in-demand and new bands. The concerts take place outside, in bathrooms, in bedrooms or on the front stoop of a house—anywhere the band happens to be when Vincent Moon, the site’s creator and videographer, stops by. Moon now has more than 100 concerts in his database, including Animal Collective, R.E.M., Yeasayer and Architecture in Helsinki.
The Trend: Concerts and informal live performances draw fans closer to a band’s mystique. Those unfamiliar with the band get hooked at the show, and seasoned fans renew their faith. The experience of seeing a band perform can still induce goosebumps, even when it comes via your laptop screen.

Runner-up: MTV Music. It may come as a surprise, but the reality-television-filled network hosts thousands of videos on this relatively new site. It's no Fabchannel, which folded in March, but it is impressive. Concerts à Emporter takes the cake by making concert spaces out of unique environments.

The Magazine: Cokemachineglow

The Site: Cokemachineglow, an online music magazine based in Canada, was long overshadowed by the “glow” of Pitchfork Media and the disbanded Stylus Magazine, whose archives are still available on its site. But at CMG, writers don’t appear to have a word limit, they often compose in the first person and the timing of reviews isn’t diligently linked to release dates. The result: music critics really sounding off. Some of the results could even be called “overshares.”
The Trend: Many believe that music criticism is a dying medium, thanks in no small part to the evolution of the music blog. Cokemachinglow has stuck around because the tone of the site isn’t so different from a blog: it’s subjective, passionate or at the very least, helpful. And though music critics in online magazines are paid nominally, they are happy to get wide exposure for their thoughts. If budgeting permits, Cokemachineglow will remain intact in the coming years, and keep giving bands the praise and constructive criticism they deserve.

Runner-up: Prefix Magazine. Prefix may garner slightly more legitimacy with more structured (and shorter) reviews, but Cokemachineglow more effectively bridges the gap between blog and magazine.

The Lyrics: SongMeanings

The Site: Most of us find song lyrics fascinating. The trouble is, many lyric sites are overrun with flashing ads telling you to shoot the paparazzo, claim your free iPhone or guess what year Rihanna was born in. But SongMeanings is fairly clean and clutter-free (though not ad-free). The site’s users submit the lyrics, and other users can comment, suggesting changes if they think the initial submission has errors. You can also discuss music in the site’s forums and learn song facts and trivia.
The Trend: Wanting to know song lyrics isn't exactly a new concept, but chat program "away messages" have provided yet another arena for wistful music fans to quote song lyrics, and it's good to know what the lyrics actually are. Some people prefer to make up the words to a song performed by a mumbling vocalist. But for the rest of us, there is this exceptional Web site.

Runner-up: Lyrics.com. Lyrics.com has lyrics and song streams, and a flashy social networking component. But the ads can be distracting, and SongMeanings users routinely share intimate analyses of songs in a wider range of categories. Lyrics.com has more of a preference for radio hits.

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