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On-line Music Sites To Behold 

Like it or not, the future of music is on the internet. The question of exactly what kind of future should resolve itself once the major labels finish stupiding themselves to death. In the meantime, The Music Box will periodically feature noteworthy sites likely to be household names soon. Don't let the simplistic graphics fool you; Esquire Magazine has recently proclaimed it "The Record Store of the Future." An on-line retailer of independent music, CD Baby has a catalog of 50,000 CDs -- and you can listen to a good chunk of all of them before buying. Equally important, it's created an outlet for musicians to sell their music directly to a worldwide audience, bypassing traditional record labels and distribution. In the company's five-year history, they've paid over $5 million to independent musicians for CDs sold -- nearly $100,000 a week now. A great site to browse and discover new artists in every category from kid's music to classical. Hey, and once you cut out the middlemen? Yeah, stuff gets cheaper fast. They're too smart for their own good, total indie snobs, and it's often impossible to remember what CD you were reading about by the end of their thesis-length reviews -- every single one of which must make mandatory mention of Foucault. But, lordy, are they fun to read -- even when they're skewering your favorite band -- or maybe especially when they're doing that. A good site, as well, for daily news on indie acts and labels. A specialized site dedicated to guerilla home-studio recorders, it features a very active message board where you can learn the minutiae of computerized recording, where to find studios around the world, or how to buy, sell and trade equipment. A user-friendly site to legally download songs from artists all over the map -- and with a "Big Shots" section available, the focus isn't totally on the indie underdogs. But that's the point, isn't it? Hearing stuff you can't hear anywhere else: Who is Okkervil River? What does a Centro-Matic sound like? Where do Jets to Brazil go, musically? Is the new Shins as good as the first Shins? Band profiles, discographies, and several MP3s per artist to check out in their entirety. The on-line guide is a quick reference for virtually every band, artist or composer ever recorded. Want to know what distinguishes the four different versions of Coltrane's Blue Train? Which is the most complete Skip James box set? Who played that wicked slide guitar on the Stones' Sticky Fingers? How many symphonies Haydn wrote? (109) Band and artist bios, record reviews and discographies including out-of-print stuff -- it's not flawless, but it's a great site to fill out your research or settle that bar bet, once and for all.

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