Digital Encoding Creates Exciting Online Opportunities

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Digital Encoding Creates Exciting Online Opportunities

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Our digital world is morphing faster than anyone could possibly keep up with it and, with those changes, the music business shifts exponentially as well. As long as music can be digitally encoded, there will continue to be exciting new opportunities online.

Ten years ago, bands built unsophisticated websites to try and reach their audience. Today, some of our most innovative musicians are creating online clubhouses to introduce fans and potential fans to new music and visuals, using the web medium in a whole different way. Artists are now engaging sophisticated designers to help them try different approaches online to meet this marketing opportunity.

Some musicians take it very seriously. For example, The Polyphonic Spree's adjunct website, This animated site showcases the band's music in the form of an elaborate, interactive game. Chances are, by the time you navigate through the desert, ocean and forest gaming sequences, you'll also have a pretty good idea about The Polyphonic Spree's sound.

The same is true for Eminem's website, His animated visuals will take you from his humble beginnings in a Michigan trailerpark, all the way to his life in 2049. Eminem's added a bit of himself too, with sound bites and story lines written throughout to give you a glimpse into the mind of the superstar. Of course, navigate his site, and you have been hearing back to back Eminem hits. It's a pretty effective marketing tool to sell records.

Then there's Beck's website. No big surprise here as the website is a visual feast, designed to run interactively, with music and sound effects. Beck's site includes all his music videos, his artwork, plus downloadable animated icons and previously unreleased tracks.

Some superstars just are more interested in giving fans the facts, without special effects. Coldplay and U2's websites are good examples. Pretty uninteresting visually, both rely far more on text to tell the stories. You get all the basic information, but it's not that fun to hang out there.

One site that is a whole lot of fun is the Gorrilaz website at Not only will they take you on a musical adventure, but their website boasts an incredibly complex interactive game, 2-D artwork contests and other related links.

Another fun site is Dresden Dolls at They are the cabaret punk duo whose live shows have captivated audiences everywhere. These guys have as much fun playing with their fans online as they do performing on stage. If you go to their website, you can watch their home made Karaoke videos, check out their human statue photo contest with fans, or read the hate mail they've been receiving while on tour with Nine Inch Nails. The good news is that Dresden Dolls do not take anything too seriously.

Want to relive the experience of Jeff Spicoli of Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Go to Billy is the ultimate slacker musician. Watch his website, and you tell me -- is this guy serious?

Whether you want all the bells and whistles, or something a bit more down market, musicians are now spending big bucks to entertain you on the web. The next step that's sure to come is bands' building special websites for each record they release, to capture the spirit and vision of their musical works. Consider yourself the lucky recipient of all this creativity.

Happy Holidays and here's to an interesting New Year. This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat on KCRW.