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Music Zines

by Nancy Weldon

Copyright 1998 Nancy Weldon. All rights reserved.

They have names like "Saucy Trout," "Dirty Linen," and "BAM."

But we're not talking about impudent fish, grungy laundry or loud noises! We're talking about zines, e-zines; and these are all about music.

There are hundreds if not thousands of e-zines floating around on the Web, covering just about any type of music you might want to hear. Some are online versions of print magazines, while others exist only in cyberspace. Many offer audio or video clips to download. Plus information on artists, concerts, CD sales, music equipment and the music industry. Plus an opportunity for fans to interact with each other, post comments, or in some cases, write their own reviews.

And most zines have many links to other sites and magazines. So a quick glance at a concert schedule for your favorite artist can turn into a lengthy ramble.

One quick warning: some zines-especially those dedicated to the punk and metal contingents-can contain adult, explicit language. Of course, you probably won't have to worry if your taste leans toward the "Banjo Newsletter"-but I'm warning you just the same.

How to get started? Whether you groove to Garbage or Frank Sinatra, there are plenty of people willing to show you the way to musical nirvana, or, Nirvana.

You could try a search engine like Yahoo,Alta Vista, or Excite. A search for "music zine" will get you lists from around the world.

And most service providers such as American Online,Earthlink and Mindspring have home pages that offer entertainment and music listings that can probably take you where you want to go.

But you may get faster results with a Web guide like the Mining Company. Head for the music section, where you'll find a wealth of listings for all genres, from rock and folk to ska and techno. Country fans alert: mega-star Garth Brooks is so popular he has his own listing here, right up there with jazz and alternative music.

A quick look at the Mining Company's Classical Rock category finds more than three dozen zines. One of the most unusual is Goldmine. It's a zine devoted entirely to the sale and marketing of music collectibles. There's life in those LPs yet!

First Music is another huge and well-organized path to the land of music zines. "First" calls itself "the Internet's most comprehensive guide to the world of music." And it's a massive site. Thezines have everything from "A" to "T." That's "alternative" to "techno."

A look in the rock section alone turns up more than a dozen listings.

For instance, Access Online is the Web version of a Canadian zine. It proudly proclaims itself "the Magazine for the Lifestyle of the Young and Wreckless." "Wreckless"? We hope that's a plug for safety first!

Access covers artists like Soul Asylum, Esthero and Emm Gryner. In other words, probably not first pick for Beatles fans.

Online zines are a great place to sample the latest in all types of music.

At Pitchfork, you can check out the likes of artists like Grant Lee Buffalo and Naked Aggression. There are sound clips so you can take a quick listen to new groups, or see what more familiar artists are doing now.

But if the word "pitchfork" conjures up images-not of music, but haystacks-stay tuned. You can mosey on over to First Music's country corner.

Access Nashville has the latest from Music City. At Access, you can find out what's up with mainstream country artists like Merle Haggard, John Michael Montgomery, Terri Clark and Johnny Paycheck, to name a few.

If you're in a finger-pickin' mood, check out the aforementionedBanjo Newsletter. You can get the pick of the pickers, and keep up with the likes of Bela Fleck, Eddie Adcock and Bill Keith.

Another zine in the same musical neighborhood is, yes: Dirty Linen. It features folk and world music, with recent stories on Crosby and Nash, Pete Seeger, and Hot Tuna.

As you see, zines can get very specialized.

But the biggies are on the Net, too.

Maybe you'd rather try some music industry heavy hitters such as Billboard and Rolling Stone.

Billboard's online version has all the record charts you need to keep up with the world's biggest and hottest artists. Here, you'll find lots of music industry news, and reader polls, such as a recent one on CD pricing.

And for trivia buffs, there's Billboard's "This Day in Music," a look at what happened on specific dates through music history.

One of my favorites:

July 7, 1967: "Monkees open national tour with little-known Jimi Hendrix as the opening act." Now there's a duo for the musical ages.

Meantime, Rolling Stone has been chronicling rock for decades now, and its Internet presence is as slick as you might imagine.

The online version is mostly a listing of the print mag, with photos and audio samples.

Here, you can see what artists like Jewel and Hanson are up to (no, they're not dating), plus get the latest tour information, and check out big events like the Lilith Fair.

Fans can write in their own comments. So you can read the innermost Internet thoughts of such home-based musical commentators as "Elegantly Wasted," "Rotovibe" and my personal fave: "The Bloat."

If you still want your MTV, you can have it online. No, it's not a zine, but it has its ownnews section with the latest doings of stars like Madonna, David Lee Roth and Rancid.

Want more news? There's VH1 Online.

It, too has music news, reviews and Webcasts with artists like Savage Garden, Rod Stewart and Bonnie Raitt.

And CNN has an online music news presence, running the gamut from Spice Girls to Luis Miguel, and hundreds of artists in between.

If you're interested in regional music, there are still more zines to keep you up to date.

BAM (Bay Area Music) has been covering the San Francisco Bay area and beyond for years.

BAM has stories, reviews and concert information on all kinds of artists, plus special sections on Northern and Southern California.

If the Deep South is more your style, there's Offbeat, focusing on music from New Orleans and the entire state of Louisiana. It's a must for bayou boogie fans.

Offbeat covers the full spectrum of artists-from Walter "Wolfman" Washington to world-famous New Orleans native Wynton Marsalis. And the magazine has great links to other Louisiana musicians: whether it's zydeco, R&B, rock, swamp pop or anything else created in the state's vast musical miasma.

Check out Cowboy Mouth, a band that can count Vampire author (and New Orleans resident) Anne Rice as a fan.

At the Cowboy Mouth Web site, you can sample their latest CDs.

Need a quick fix of spicy Cajun music? There's a hot link for Lafayette's Zachary Richard. His Web site offers fans a choice: updates in English or French.

And if it's R&B you crave, try a strong dose of the nationally known Neville Brothers. They've been spreading New Orleans soul worldwide for decades.

But maybe you'd rather make your own music. If so, a newsletter-style zine called The Muse's News may be able to help. It's part of a massive songwriter-oriented site called The Muse's Muse. The "News" has interviews with songwriters plus book reviews and links to many sites aimed at musicians.

The site is an example of how individuals are putting the Web to work. Muse's proprietress (that's how she's listed) Jodi Krangle says she started the site when she discovered the Web in 1995.

In an email interview, she says: "Originally, it was an attempt to create something for the Web that would serve some sort of purpose. You know, other than posting stories about my cat (I don't have one) or what I had for breakfast."

Krangle says most of her readers are musicians. "It feels like a community in cyberspace these days, and the weekly chats (9:00 p.m. EST Mondays) only emphasize that for me." She says it's a site where "people participate," with about 2,000 hits a day.

Cyberspace is loaded with musicians' zines, large and small.

The L.A.-based Music Connection has an online version. It has listings of the contents of current and past issues, most geared toward musicians and fans in Southern California. It often focuses on who's playing where and booking whom and recording what.

For a small sampling of other musician-oriented zines, there are:

Guitar Player. It's mostly an online version of the 20-year-old print mag. Lots of articles about guitar players (what else) and the latest in gear, home studios, etc.

It offers links to sister publications, including Bass Player and Keyboard.

For female rock and rollers, or wannabes, there is Rockrgrl (yep, that's the way they spell it. It's pronounced "Rockergirl"). This bi-monthly zine is directed at women in rock, and they mean business.

Its masthead clearly states: "No beauty tips or guilt trips." Readers can check out sample articles on names like Yoko Ono and Beth Orton, then subscribe.

But what about our old friend Saucy Trout? It's a 'zine focused on music festivals in Europe: places like London, Amsterdam, Cologne, and other German cities. Saucy Trout also started as a hobby. The name? We asked the editors. They emailed us the succinct response: "The name was nicked from an English storyteller who somewhere in his act called somebody a Saucy Trout." Well, we did ask.

One of my favorite Trout listings: the Bizarre Festival, scheduled for August 21-23 at Butzweiler Hof in Cologne, Germany. (Try saying "Butzweiler Hof" several times.) Think of it-an expected 65,000 fans, camping out and enjoying the likes of Chumbawumba, Green Day, Cucumber Men, Uncle Ho and a group that modestly calls itself "No Use For A Name."


That Trout: it's so, well, "saucy."

Here's hoping you get to check out some of these zines, and launch your own musical ramble!


Nancy Weldon is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.


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