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Shakespeare's Theatre

A multimedia tribute to the reopening of the Globe.

Classically Inclined

A refreshingly fundamental approach to classical music.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology

"Um, what exactly is this place?"

Women's Health Online

As soothing as a pastel-painted clinic, as informative and helpful as your favorite clinician.


Experience an "activist frisson" on the Web.

Hong Kong Diaries

Making history -- and living it -- on a personal scale.

This Disquieting Structure

Why the cult of Thomas Pynchon is right at home on the Web.

And Now ... This?

When TV-network news is translated onto the Web the picture is something completely different.

Group Therapy

For people with HIV and AIDS, a Web site that offers hope in community.

What's Cooking

The next big thing ... for the kitchen.

Small World

A site where "who you know" is the only thing that matters.

"If you build it they will come..."

Baseball legends live on at RedSox.com's site of dreams.

For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.
August 13, 1997


On the surface of it, a casual survey of the most prominent popular music sites on the Web turns up nothing too surprising. Major record labels and their bands, well-known magazines, and of course MTV, are all online, many with creatively designed Web sites to push their products and their corporate images.

But there's another story beneath this all-too-predictable one, and it's not about corporate marketing decisions. It's about popular music and the people who make it and listen to it -- people who increasingly are coming of age with the Internet and are using it to express themselves in ways that the recording industry may not have counted on.

Money Nothing reveals this other story more dramatically than unfURLed, a Web site launched last month by none other than MTV and Yahoo!. Billed as "A Guide to Web Music," unfURLed takes the entertainment savvy of MTV and marries it to the Web savvy and technological muscle of Yahoo! and its search engine. The various sections of the guide -- from the weekly columns pointing out and reviewing music sites to the sub-directories of sites under a particular heading ("Labels," "Tours," "Genres," "Mags," etc.) to the listings of live events -- attempt to organize and package the vast amount of online material related to popular music in a way that makes some sense. After all, as unfURLed's welcoming message reminds us, "Surfing the Web's music sites can be like trying to bust through a mosh pit of surly punks." Be prepared: even with MTV and Yahoo! as your guides, it doesn't take long to realize that behind unfURLed's smooth and reassuring surface lies the teeming, chaotic, and oftentimes utterly bizarre world of underground and independent music on the Web.

Enter in a search for a band or style of music, and up will pop any number of sites, from the official to the most brazen parody. You'll discover a thriving multimedia scene, with a large and ever-increasing amount of both pre-recorded and live audio and Gossipvideo -- and not just the thirty-second clips sanctioned by the record companies, but also a surprising number of high-quality bootleg recordings provided by devoted fans who seem to have set up shop, in bedrooms and dormrooms across the land, as veritable multimedia production houses.

In the end it is somehow strange and deliciously ironic that MTV and Yahoo! -- two of the defining corporate entities on TV and the Web, respectively -- should come together, and that the result of their combined effort should be so subversive. For if MTV succeeded almost single-handedly in redefining popular culture for the generation that came of age in the 1980s -- with social and cultural side-effects that are just now becoming apparent -- then it's quite possible that the Web is doing much the same thing for teenagers and college students today. The difference is that MTV was able to push its ultra-slick, ultra-commercial sensibility on a generation of kids simply because it was the most interesting and seemingly dangerous thing on TV, where there's never been much competition in the rebellion category. But this time, as the explosive and uncontrollable growth of interactive multimedia on the Web reveals, it's obvious that the kids aren't just all right -- they're running the show.

Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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