The King Biscuit Time Columns
The Blues Online, #2
By Glenn Weiser

These are the archived columns I've written for King Biscuit Time, a magazine covering blues artist and festivals. - GW


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#2 - Finding Blues Websites Through Internet Directories

Glenn Weiser

 The most common way to find a Web page on a given topic is to try a search engine like Google or Yahoo. Type the keyword or phrase into the search box, click on the search tab or hit enter, and an electronic mite called a bot whizzes around the Web collecting pages hopefully matching your inquiry. But you can’t always get what you want this way-sometimes the bot produces irrelevant listings. Also, good match could show up ten pages back in the results, well past the four or less that Web surfers usually view. 

            That’s where Internet directories, which are hierarchical listings of websites going from the most general categories down to the most specific, come in handy. The largest directories contain over a million or two sites; others are smaller and can be more select. From the top page of a directory you can drill down to subcategories containing sites search engines might not reveal at all and often strike gold. Search engines, then, are hit and miss, but with directories, seek and ye shall find.

            To check out a major directory, go to Google (www.google.com), also now the leading search engine. Click on the Directory tab just underneath the “e” in the Google logo. When the top page of the directory loads you’ll see that the good nerds at the Mountain View, CA, company have cut up the Internet into 15 slices - Arts, Business, Computers, etc.

           Now click on the Music link just under the Arts category, and then from the Music page click again on Styles. The Styles listing starts with Alternative Rock; fourth is Blues. Click on the Blues link, and you’re down home in cyberspace. With over 1700 sites, Google’s blues listing is the biggest of its kind. If you’ve got the time, Google has the sites.

And by the way, welcome to my world – Netscape’s Open Directory Project, a prime source of listings used by Google as well as several other major search engines, is a five-year old effort by 40,000 volunteer Web editors, including myself, to catalogue worthwhile sites. I currently manage the Blues category among others (much credit, however, is due to Jo Hermans, a Belgian, for having tended the “cat” in its earlier days and compiled the bulk of the present listings), so let me give you a quick tour of the section.

Heading the top page of the Blues listing are links to 20 main subcategories, beginning with Bands and Artists and continuing through Blues Societies, Clubs (as in venues), Education, Fan Pages, Festivals, History, Instruments, Lyrics, Magazines, Management Agencies, Newsgroups and Mailing Lists, Photographs, Radio, Record Labels, Regional, Reviews, Shopping, Sound Files, and Webrings. At around 1150 sites, Bands and Artists is by far the largest of these. The number of people out performing blues who have listings (not to mention those as yet unlisted or without websites) suggests the genre is still rollin’ steady.

Because blues has influenced many if not most other kinds of American music, 5 links below those to the main subcategories lead to listings of related styles - folk, jazz, rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and zydeco.

So now that you know how to navigate the directory itself, what exactly is there to see? Under the related styles links you’ll find a selection of websites dealing with blues in general and having, hopefully, the broadest appeal. The list can be viewed either in descending order of popularity, or, if you click on the rightmost link on the green “Web Pages” band, alphabetically. The content packed “Year of the Blues” site (www.yearoftheblues.com) we looked at last month is here, for example, and much more besides.

Another important site on the top tier list is that of the Blues Foundation (www.blues.org), a Memphis based nonprofit corporation that serves as an umbrella organization “for the worldwide resurgence in blues music.” For substantive content, all their back newsletters are archived. Also, an “Up Close and Personal” section profiles contemporary artists such as Little Milton, Bob Margolin, and Fruteland Jackson through brief “my favorite things” type Q & As. For CD recommendations, you can click on “Hank’s No-Brainers,” (it’s not obvious who Henry, the list’s author, is, however). And the BF, like most good Web sites, has links to all kinds of other blues sites. In all, the top page of the listing offers 26 sites.

We’ll have to explore the Google Blues category’s subsections later-there are other Web directories with blues categories to visit. Yahoo! was one the first directories on the Internet, and the model for the Netscape directory. At 175 sites, Yahoo’s blues category is far smaller than Google’s, which is better if you’d rather skim than scan. To get there, scroll down Yahoo’s top page (www.yahoo.com) until you see the tan Web Site Directory band, and then drill down by clicking on Entertainment, Music, Genres, and Blues successively. As with Google, you’ll see links to the category’s subsections at the top of the page and a top tier list of Web sites below. Hang ten and click away.

Another directory with an extensive selection of blues sites is About.com (blues.about.com). You’ll see an attractively designed page with a table of contents on the left containing links to 26 subcategories and 6 ”Esentials” departments, and on the right a pick of top sites. Below these are “sponsored,” links (paying customers get prime real estate). You’ll have to contend with a few banner ads too, which you don’t see on the biggest directories. The number of sites in the category is not given, though, and category honcho John Babich didn’t respond to an email asking what it was. All the same, there are still plenty of great sites here.

A menu bar just below Babich’s smiling, bearded headshot offers links to a discussion forum, a chat room, and an e-newsletter mailing list you can get on-features unavailable at Google or Yahoo. You’ll have to register at the site to become a participant/recipient, but you can learn a lot and meet interesting fellow fans this way.

Even though there are more directories out there, these three should be enough get you started on an enjoyable Web surfing safari. And as always, you’re invited to drop by the King Biscuit Time site at www.kingbiscuittime.com and my own juke joint at www.celticguitarmusic.com/bluesmain.htm. Later!  

© 2003 Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.

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