Say you want a Web-volution – musicians using World Wide Web to disperse their music – includes related articles on various aspects and sites

Say you want a Web-volution – musicians using World Wide Web to disperse their music – includes related articles on various aspects and sites – Brief Article

Barry Walters

GAY AND LESBIAN ACTS CAN NOW OFFER THEIR MUSIC DIRECTLY TO LISTENERS VIA THE TECHNOLOGICAL MAGIC OF MP3 AND THE INTERNET

Have you ever wondered what the musical landscape would be like if there were no barriers between lesbian and gay musicians and their potential fans, no wall of predominantly straight managers, record labels, radio stations, and retail stores standing in the way? What if gay and lesbian listeners and musicians could contact, nurture, and learn from each other without getting caught in the mainstream distribution loop? Wonder no longer. You can already participate in this obstacle-free musical exchange via a computer near you. The Internet is the world’s fastest-growing marketplace, and it does not discriminate.

“It’s so much more satisfying putting my music out there this way,” says Linda Perry, who in her 4 Non-Blondes days sold more than 6 million records. “With my own Web site, I can give people a direct way to hear my songs and give me feedback. I don’t have to get on the radio or prove myself to record company people responsible for getting my music in the stores. I do it all myself.”

That do-it-yourself philosophy has been behind every innovation in sound and style: women’s music, punk, rap, New Age, world beat, alternative rock, electronica. Lesbian and gay artists and impresarios doing it for themselves have created gay-owned and gay-targeted performance venues, book and record stores, mail-order catalogs, indie labels, and other alternative distribution systems. But these remain small fish in the big pond of traditional music marketing. The Web is now making it possible for artists to find an audience without mimicking the methods of Big Brother. Music created by and for lesbians and gays is just a click away.

“Listeners are dominated and intimidated by the record stores and the radio into what they should listen to,” k.d. lang told Entertainment Weekly in a March 12 stow about music available over the Internet. “So this is a wonderful way for artists and fans to bypass that.”

Say you want to find out what Boy George is doing these days. Instead of heading to the mall, you simply enter his name in an Internet search engine such as Yahoo! or Dogpile and you’ll find any number of fan sites, online record stores, and other links. One such Web site dedicated to Culture Club sells The Unrecoupable One Man Bandit, an authorized album of Boy George material you’ll never find at Best Buy.

Or maybe you want to keep in touch with former Prince and the Revolution members Wendy and Lisa Go to their Web site and click on the link to Music Boulevard, a popular online music retailer. There you can buy the duo’s latest self-distributed CD, Girl Brothers, or listen to samples of lesbian and gay music titles with the help of a free Real Audio Player that can be easily downloaded from the Web.

“The economics are completely different,” says Perry. “By running my own label and selling my records over the Web, I only need to sell 40,000 copies in order to make the same amount of money I’d earn from selling 500,000 on a major label.”

That difference clearly has the record industry nervous. One particularly anxiety-provoking topic is MP3, a new technology that allows listeners to download near-CD-quality music onto their computers in a few minutes, compared with the hours once required to move music fries through modem connections. And with last fall’s release of the portable Diamond Rio player for MP3 files, music fans are no longer chained to a computer to listen to their downloaded music. MP3 files are now as mobile as cassette tapes or CDs and may well become just as popular. Although it was virtually unknown to non-geeks only a few months ago, MP3 is now second only to sex when it comes to commonly entered search words on the Internet. [See “MP3 101”]

On MP3’s own site, for example, you can download both the player software needed to listen to MP3 files and thousands of songs. Most are by unknowns (the site includes instructions for aspiring musicians who want to upload their own tunes), but queer heroes like Taylor Dayne, Pete Townshend, and Dionne Warwick have recently posted new material.

On MP3-focused Web sites such as the MP3 Place, you’ll find daily updated lists of the most popular legal and underground music sites. The latter category includes sites featuring popular recordings by major-label acts that have been illegally turned into downloadable MP3 files—without any kind of compensation for the labels or the musicians.

It’s this potential for abuse that has the industry arguing that the Web is not a musician’s paradise. “The concern is that one individual can affect thousands,” Recording Industry Association of America president and CEO Hilary Rosen said to Entertainment Weekly. “The commercial impact is significant.” At the same time, the major labels are developing their own version of MP3–a new

format that the labels would control and that would require payments for downloads.

Still Perry, for one, is not prepared to rejoin major-label madness. “At this point in my career, I’d rather take my chances doing things myself,” she reflects. “If I fail, I have no one to blame but myself. On the other hand, any sale I make is my own achievement.”

RELATED ARTICLE: MP3 101 GETTING STARTED

What is MP3?

MP3 is a file format that stores audio fries on a computer in such a way that the file size is relatively small, but the song sounds nearly perfect.

Is MP3 legal?

Using MP3 is legal if the song’s copyright holder has granted permission to download and play the song. Also, it is legal to make copies from CD for personal use. However, it is illegal to encode MP3s from CD and trade them without permission from the copyright holder.

What do I need to get started?

Just about any computer can play MP3s, although we recommend at least a Pentium, Mac Power PC or comparable processor. Also, you will need a sound card and speakers.

What software is used to play MP3s?

An “MP3 player” software program plays MP3 files. There are many players available for free or as shareware. For Windows, we recommend WinAmp, and for Mac try MacAmp. Unix users should check out Xaudio. To install a new player, download it and run the installer or setup file.

–From “Frequently Asked Questions” on MP3’s Web site

RELATED ARTICLE: Now playing on the Net

TEN TO WATCH FOR ON THE WEB

Little did Alix Dobkin realize what she was creating when in 1973 she released Lavender Jane Loves Women, the first album that sang out loud the love that dared not say its name. Now, 26 years later, gay and lesbian love is being shouted in every genre of music all over the world, and the Internet is spreading the word at fiber-optic speed. The Web has become one big worldwide radio, and MP3 technology lets anyone with a computer and a modern sample music that used to be impossible to find, let alone hear.

The gifted gay, lesbian, and transgendered artists below have moved beyond identity music meant for queer audiences alone; rather, they’re reaching out to the world with a message that encompasses their own identities and creativity. Their work offers a taste of the riches available at the click of a mouse. Surf, sample, and buy. (Links to each of these artists’ sites can be found at www.advocate.com)

THE BUTCHIES

ARE WE NOT FEMME? (MR. LADY)

These spicy Mr. Ladies blast a hole deep into whatever stereotype exists about the noisy sounds of dyke punk birthed in the Northwest. In 30 minutes of infectious sonic joy, these playful gender fuckers soul-kiss Sleater-Kinney and Stereolab with delicious reinventions of disco, love anthems, and passionate pop strutting. Band members Alison “Big Al” Martlew, Melissa York (former Vitapup), and gorgeous Kaia Wilson push the musical envelope toward the future. But they also surprise us by reaching back to honor first-waver Cris Williamson with a guitar-driven reinvention of her “Shooting Star.”

CASEY COLLINS

ASHES (CDEVILLE)

World traveler and singer extraordinaire Casey Collins takes male diva-ness to new sonic heights. Blending the coolness of David Bowie, the sultry sexiness of Barry White, and the exuberant falsetto of Jimmy Somerville with a Celine Dion-caliber vocal instrument, Collins gives the authentic emotional ride missing in Mariah Carey’s vocal gymnastics. He out-grooves even George Michael as he boldly lays claim to the dance-floor turf left barren since Donna Summer had her last musical orgasm. This masterfully produced three-song EP introduces a world-class singer.

COMFORTABLE SHOES

HAPPY JOY (MISS PRIM RECORDS)

Who would have thought that Ray Conniff’s posse was hiding out with the Swingle Singers–in Provincetown, of all places? But how else to explain the aural magic of Comfortable Shoes? Michael Holland, Debra Piccolo, and Pete Donnelly are the three fabulous voices and gifted songwriters who loop and swirl up, down, and all around these 12 songs, including the truly twisted “Reddy Or Not (the Helen Reddy Medley).” Great smooching music for vanilla souls.

MAGDALEN HSU-LI

EVOLUTION (CHICKPOP)

With a Jackie Chan karate chop to the stereotype of the submissive Asian woman, Magdalen Hsu-Li answers back in the name of all outsiders–not as an agitprop political shouter but in the seductive voice of a tenderhearted artist who transmutes anger, beauty, and hope into a fully realized album. Hsu-Li never compromises her music to make a political point and never compromises her politics to make her music more accessible. She clearly took care to make her powerful feelings sonically strong and melodic. Prepare to be surprised: All the colors of life shimmer in her well-crafted soundscape.

VERONICA KLAUS

ALL I WANT (BLACK DIAMOND)

Transgendered chanteuse Veronica Klaus takes female illusion to the max on this superbly sung album, melding Michael Callen’s vocal tone with sultry Etta James phrasing. What sets Klaus apart from lip-synching drag queens is not only her body manipulation but, more important, her respect for song selection, arrangements, musicianship, and vocal performance. It’s all here in 12 songs–the pain of being different, the loneliness of being the other “woman,” the conflict between self-esteem and desperate love. A musical triumph, this is a serious record all wrapped up in Julie Newmar glamour.

RICK JENSEN

SPRING HARVEST (THE DOCTOR IS IN MUSIC)

Move ever, Michael Feinstein, there’s a new genius in the room. Rick Jensen has been carting off all the New York cabaret awards of late, and this debut album shows why. Cole Porter, Peter Alien, Tom Lehrer, and Nancy LaMott must be beaming down at their collective progeny. From deeply moving ballads like “The Heart Knows” to the S/M humor of “My Baby and Me,” Jensen makes adult, sophisticated music that could make seltzer taste like champagne. A special treat: a duet with the much-missed Ms. LaMott.

NEDRA JOHNSON

TESTIFY (GOLDENROD)

This is one spirit singer who could give Jerry Falwell a heart attack. Birthed in the blues of Bessie Smith, the hymns of Big Maybelle, and the soul of Kurt Cobain, this jazz baby brings a punk energy to the sacred and profane body prayers she growls at the temple of Aphrodite and into the mosh pit of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Johnson’s musky invocations welcome all who believe in the power of booty to heal the soul. This is conversion music for those in need of sexual healing.

JOHN JOSEPH NOLIS

YOU (NOLIS INTERNATIONAL)

Not all soul music is of the Aretha variety. There’s also the kind you hear from James Taylor, Tracy Chapman, Jackson Browne, Nina Simone, and Lucinda Williams. That’s what John Joseph Nolis offers in words and music that heal the spirit and remind us that hope, trust, and love are possible. This CD features ten tender songs, half self-written, the others quite original interpretations of tunes by Tom Waits, Gretchen Peters, Melissa Etheridge, and Kim Carnes.

PAXTON

PAXTON (NEMPEROR/RAZOR AND TIE)

Imagine Lou Reed and Rod Stewart making New Wave music in the back room of Max’s Kansas City when life was reckless and innocent. Back when barebacking referred to horses, Paxton had his own designer fashion line. Shucking the threads for frets, he dived into the pool where folk and rock were mating. From jangly alt-rock to the moving power ballad, everything is present on Paxton. And in the best Bowie tradition, Paxton comes to terms with his heart and his sexual identity in 12 pure power-pop songs. Paxton should give all the little boys and girls a reason to live.

SCIENCE PARK

FUTURAMA (OBSCURE-DISK)

Boston university student Myke Weiskopf, 22, stayed up late writing and recording songs in his home studio–and ended up producing a near masterpiece of innocent modern pop. Wonderfully eclectic in his influences, from the crisp coolness of Phil Oakley and early Human League to the ’50s indie retro of Aluminum Group to the emotional bark of Magnetic Fields. This music will wash over you like a Brazilian waterfall on a summer day. Catchy and hummable, it will echo long after you put the CD down. In a better world Weiskopf’s love anthem “Lay You Out in Lavender” would be number one on all our radios.

Walter’s is a pop-music critic for The Advocate.

COPYRIGHT 1999 Liberation Publications, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group