Official band Web sites range from the sublime to the slimy.
Is there a band in the world that doesn’t have its own Web site? Probably not. Official sites are now an integral part of making music, and one of the nicest democratizing effects of the Internet is that it gives the garage thrashers down the street access to the same audience as Joe Superstar.
But there’s an art to building a good band site. The best ones not only reflect the personality of the performer, but also offer a generous array of information and media as a reward to fans. The feeblest ones, meanwhile, are little more than a come-on to buy, buy, and buy some more. Let’s look at a brief cross section of the best out there, and a couple of the worst.
One doesn’t always think of Bob “One-Take-No-Overdubs” Dylan as a great champion of technology, but his site is a model of the form. It has a spare, appealing design, but hides a treasure trove of unreleased audio, a lively discussion board, a good links page, and even a searchable guide to Mr.Zimmerman’s lyrics.
I couldn’t pay Weezer’s site a higher compliment when I say it looks like a great fan site. It’s short on design frills, but jammed full of news, set lists, impending radio and TV appearances, and all the other minutiae diehard followers lap up. Better yet, the site rewards regular visitors with tons of exclusive audio and video for downloading. The downloads come and go quickly, though, so act fast.
Moby, bless him, is a young man with a lot on his mind. His site is lean on freebie downloads, but is jam-packed with a frequently updated diary (I can’t really call it a blog), photos and drawings, and links to the artist’s favorite sites. If you really want to know what makes Moby tick, his site offers plenty of insight.
Another site worth checking on frequently is the Beastie Boys’. A regular peek will reveal week-old live MP3s, news, essays by the group, and even a historical timeline.
How dedicated to your favorite band are you? Not as much as some of the fans featured on Motorhead’s site, I’d wager. Along with the usual goodies on this site is a page called “Motorhead for Life,” which showcases photos of fans, dozens of ’em, showing off their Motorhead tattoos. Now, that’s devotion.
Do you still care about Richard Marx? Well, somebody must, because he has a top-notch site full of downloads, news, video clips, exclusive merchandise, and more. Not bad for a guy who’s been where-are-they-now fodder for the past 10 years.
As befits a cult favorite like Guided by Voices, the band’s site is almost nothing but manna for the faithful: streaming audio and video of entire concerts, tons of info, and even its own Internet radio station, GBV Radio.
Then there are the many, many superstar sites that are all hype and no content. Plenty fall in that category, but let’s single out two. As I write this, the Dixie Chicks’ “Home” is the No. 1 album in the United States, but you’d never guess it by the country trio’s half-baked site. It’s a clearing house for the band’s press releases, half-minute RealAudio samples, and meaningless poll pop-ups. The closest thing to an original idea on the site is a page devoted to fan photos–of themselves.
Bruce Springsteen and his management are notorious for keeping zealous control of The Boss’s music, and that tight-fisted approach taints his Web site. If there’s an artist with a vast backlog of audio and video goodies to share, it’s Springsteen, but his site is little more than a commercial for his current album, “The Rising.” Springsteen has one of the most loving, devoted fan bases around; too bad his site is so cold in return.
I’m sure I’ve missed some of your favorite band sites, or maybe one you love to hate. Let’s make part two of this round-up reflect your preferences. Drop me a line at [email protected]