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In general, there's still only a small percentage of musicians who are directly involved in the net. Artists that are more popular seem to be less likely to be online directly contacting the fans, and some of them have a problem I think of as "imposter syndrome", where people post in public areas pretending to be them. These imposters are usually found out right away, but they would make it very difficult for people to believe if the real artist really did suddenly start posting. For example, on the Winger and Kip Winger pages, there is a warning that she was contacted by Kip Winger, who told her someone has been impersonating him and having "inappropriate" chats with people over the internet. He wanted people to know he doesn't have chats over the internet.

However, there are some musicians who do get directly involved. For the most part, new and struggling bands seem to be more likely to go online and talk to fans directly. If they have an e-mail address, they're more likely to post it on their web pages. Other bands get involved through an intermediary. Some are in touch with people on the mailing lists or web pages who forward information to other fans. In one case, Alice Cooper's personal assistant regularly checks in on what's going on with his fans online, and posts updates to the mailing list regularly. Another interesting case is Eric Martin: his father has a web page where he talks about his son, with pictures, sound files (including an audio interview he did with his son), and plenty of information on his musical career. He's also willing to pass along messages to him.

I think probably the most important thing determining whether an artist is online is their attitude toward the internet. Some artists are quoted as saying what a great thing the internet is. Most of these are online themselves or try to keep up with what's going on online. When several members of the Boston mailing list got together to have a party (Bostock), the band called the party before going onstage for a show. Tom Scholz actually contributed money toward the official web page/mailing list. These people are also more likely to realize the internet's use as a promotional tool. They are more likely to come online for chats with their fans, to release official information over the internet, and sometimes even to preview new albums online before they are released.

Other artists seem to not care, or to even actively dislike the internet. These are usually ones who've had run-ins with imposters online. For an example, here's a quote from Martin Gore of Depeche Mode someone posted on the Depeche Mode mailing list:

"I've only ever been on the internet a few times and I don't find it very interesting. I find it very impersonal. I think I like physical contact with people also I find it strange browsing through the Depeche Mode pages. A lot of the stuff there are absolutely rubbish. I find a report on my wedding which was totally untrue. This girl said she arrived at my wedding and she met lot of my friends and told their names, I've never heard of these friends before. At the end of the wedding the band got on stage and played I mean as if you know you want to play at your wedding (laughs) I was just laughing."

There is no sign whatsoever that he is online, and in the short time I was on the mailing list (Bong) there were a few different people posting claiming to be him.

In general, musicians have been slower to get online than some other professions. (Writers, particularly genre writers, have been online in large numbers for years). However, more of them seem to be catching on to what a great publicity tool the internet is. Although a few are starting to get interested in the internet for it's own sake, publicity seems to be the biggest use musicians are making of it. Most artists feel the need to have an official web page, even if they have no other online contact. Unsigned bands especially are using the internet. Record companies and fan clubs also seem to be heavily using the internet for publicity, even more than the artists.

There has also been a large upsurge in independent labels and self-produced albums, probably fueled in a large part by the internet. When people can listen to sound files and order CDs online, it is much easier for artists and small labels to connect with the fans.

Here are some more specific comments on different ways the artists get involved.

Web Pages

Web pages are the most common ways for a band to get involved. Although the great majority of artist web pages online are done by fans, it seems to be standard for just about every artist to have one official web page. This may be done by the artist themselves, someone hired by the artist, a fan, a fan club, or even the record company (although in several cases there are official, record company, and fan club pages available). I've found very few bands that don't have at least one web page devoted to them. Even on fan pages, there is usually at least one fan that goes out of their way to contact the artist for news, tour dates, and more information.

As far as the content of the pages themselves, there seems to be a general consensus as far as what should go on most pages. The most complete pages have information about the artist (including an artist bio), news, tour dates, a complete discography, contact info if available, sound and multimedia files, and links to other resources on the artist on the net. There are many variations on this, depending on what is available.

Some bands have such a strong following that there could easily be well over 20 fan pages devoted to them. However, since there's only so much information about a band, much of the information becomes redundant. Some pages were even way out of date.

Mailing Lists

Artists are less likely to have a mailing list than a web page. It is hard to figure out why some artists have mailing lists and some don't, but I guess it depends on how much the fans like to talk about them. They can also be very busy, so I had to limit the amount of mailing lists I looked at due to time constraints.

In general, mailing lists seem to fall into three categories: online newsletters, moderated digests, and unmoderated discussion lists.

Online newsletter are usually one of the best sources of information on an artist. These are moderated by one person, who makes a big effort to get information directly from the source. These moderators are usually in touch with at least one band member, the management, and anyone else they can contact with information. Good examples are the Asia Armada list and the Dokken Breaking The Chains list. The moderator writes up something at the beginning of each newsletter with news and information, and sometimes there are regular columns by list members, who might also be in touch with band members or other people. After that, letters from list members are posted (moderated, of course), with the moderator answering questions that come up. Since these newsletters are a lot of work for the moderator, I haven't found that many of them.

Moderated digests are similar to the newsletter, except that the moderator normally only responds with posts like everyone else. There are no regular columns, just e-mail from list members. The moderator may or may not be in contact with the artist, although anyone with information posts it to the list.

Unmoderated discussion lists are the most common type of list. Anyone can send a message to the list address and have it automatically bounced to everyone on the list. Most of these allow two options: you can get every post immediately after it is sent as a separate e-mail, or you can get a digest regularly. There's at least one case (The National Midnight Star, the Rush mailing list) where only a digest version is available. Although the boundary between that and an moderated digest is a little fuzzy, I consider it unmoderated because although there is a sort of moderator, the "moderator" of these lists tends to take a less active roll. Since any posts are forwarded automatically on these lists, the moderator cannot block messages from being posted. However, they can try to tell people to stay on topic, and can kick people off the list when necessary. These lists are much more likely to have off topic posts and flame wars.

Although there is usually at least one person on a list that has some way of getting artist news and information, there seems to be less chance of artist involvement. However, there are some lists (usually lower traffic ones, but not always) where artists or people in touch with them (like Alice Cooper's personal assistant on his list, or Brad Gillis' sister on the Night Ranger list) post regularly. Some high traffic lists, where the artist is not online, have a big problem with people posting to the list pretending to be the artist. It's very easy to fake an e-mail address, and some people seem to like to do it to provoke people. The Dream Theater mailing list (Ytsejam), a VERY high traffic list, even had trouble with people pretending to be other list members. I haven't seen any people pretending to be band members there, though. In fact, since the list seems to cover all kinds of progressive rock, besides just Dream Theater, several members of newer progressive bands have been known to post there, and Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater reads the list, and sends along news updates through other people instead of posting directly.

In general, every list is different. All of them are really good sources on artist information, whether the artist is online or not. And although imposters like to create problems sometimes, it normally doesn't take very long at all for the list members to uncover the truth.

FTP Sites

There really aren't very many of these, and they tend to be put together by the fans, as a place to download files. Most artist related files are available on web pages instead of by FTP.


I really didn't have a chance to look at these. However, I would suspect they are very similar to the unmoderated lists, only with less control over content, since anyone can post.

IRC and Other Online Chats

Although most online chats are with just fans, it is becoming much more common for artists to do online chats. These are normally scheduled ahead of time and advertised, sometimes sponsored by the record company. These are common on online services like AOL and the Microsoft Network. Artists go online for chats even if they are not normally online. These seem to be treated as promotional appearances. There is usually a moderator to make sure things stay on track, and it works like a question and answer session. I have seen very little sign of any artists stopping in for chats regularly without warning (something that's common with many of the writers I know), although I did hear that former members of The Dead Milkmen have been known to stop in for chats, so it's not unheard of.


Only a small portion of artists have their own e-mail addresses posted, although there is sign that more are online and just don't have the addresses posted. There are also cases where a record company or fan club has an e-mail address posted where messages can be forwarded to the artist. I've seen a few cases where a bulletin board or guest book is forwarded to an artist or viewed by them, and the artist responds to what is posted. However, there weren't many of these.

One thing I noticed is that there are many artists who have accounts on AOL. These artists may also be hanging out and posting on the message boards there, however I didn't look into this. (Although since I do have an AOL account I might look into it in the future.) It might be interesting to see how much participation there is on AOL.

 Last updated: 11/24/97

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