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Hot on the Web

All Music's redesign

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on September 3, 2004
(Issue 2236, Toys and Tools)

One of the best sites online for finding out about your favorite band is Sister site to the equally excellent and, AllMusic and the AllClassical sites recently underwent a fairly comprehensive redesign/merger that makes for a better experience in many ways but also incorporated some iffy design elements that limit the browsers that can access the site.

First, visually the new look is a vast improvement. Gone is the orange and black design (still featured on AllMovie and AllGame), and in its stead is a pleasant light-blue palette.

The search options make more sense now – although you have to register (its free) to access some of the search tools. The main search tool lets you look for a musician, album or song; by clicking on the advanced search button, you can also search by label or keyword.

Each entry is now split up into several topics, accessible by clicking on a tab along the top of the listing. Performers, for instance, have entries for Biography, Discography, Songs, Credits, and Charts and Awards. Albums and labels have similar organizational options.

Deep content

The AllMusic Web site is the online version of the printed 'All Music" guide books. But because it's a Web site, 1., it's free and 2., it's updated a lot more often than a book!

And while there are several All Music books – rock, jazz, classical, etc. – the Web site is an integrated database. In today's world of bands incorporating elements from a variety of styles it's nice that you don't have to worry that your folk book won't cover artists who are maybe a little more bluegrass, or your blues guide won't consider Stevie Ray Vaughan blues enough.

The AllMusic critics cover any style you could ever imagine – from alternative rock to opera, jazz to oi, blues to flamenco. I use the AllMusic site as a starting point when writing up my own reviews or editing those of other writers for my online 'zine, and I come up empty at AllMusic maybe twice a year. Tops.

You can still subscribe to a new-releases newsletter, which will e-mail you each week with notice of what CDs are coming up.

AllGames gets an upgrade, too

The AllGames site was long the poor cousin of AllMusic. Most of the earlier consoles, like the original Atari VCS/2600, were barely present in the site's database – and truly obscure systems, like the Fairchild Channel F (the first console with interchangeable game cartridges) weren't even listed.

But while visiting AllMusic, I clicked on the AllGame link out of curiosity – and if the garish orange and black design remains, the content here is nearly as deep as that on AllMusic.

In fact, browsing the AllGame site is like taking a trip through time. Channel F has a full description, and photograph, as do most of the early game systems – Odyssey, Intellivision, Vectrex.

The additional photographs, the in-depth information and the advanced search options from both AllMusic and AllGame are all welcome additions that one hopes will be incorporated into a similar upgrade to the AllMovie site – which still doesn't have photos of actors, or stills from movies.

Another good music resource

On those one or two occasions per year when you stump AllMusic looking for a particular band, another good site is ArtistDirect. The descendant of the old, and very solid, Ultimate Band Locator (UBL), ArtistDirect not only provides biographies of the bands, but links to their own and other fan sites (the original purpose of UBL).

The ArtistDirect site is laid out rather differently from AllMusic, but those differences may well suit some visitors better than the AllMusic design. (The bright yellow-and-black navigation is unlikely to suit much of anyone, however.) And ArtistDirect even includes free – and legal – music downloads, which you won't find on AllMusic (although AllMusic does have a lot of 30-second samples to give you a feel for a band or album).

Regardless of which site you use, the 'Net is making it easier than ever to keep tabs on your favorite bands, and to learn something new.