The Web's most intriguing music-related destinations. This week: Musictoday.com, iTunes and Dashboard Confessional.

LIVE FOR TODAY: The Internet has shortened lines of communication between artists and their fans. A lot of bands have used the Net to directly interact with their followers by posting information or selling music (in digital or physical form) and concert tickets through their Web sites. But not many groups have the resources to really run their own Web stores, or efficiently take orders online and ship products directly to fans.

Musictoday.com is positioning itself as a company that can provide such resources and help facilitate bands' Web-based independence. The company provides behind-the-scenes services to artists, labels and other entertainment companies, creating the backbones of online artist stores, fan clubs and Web sites as well as providing CD replication, ticketing services and more. The company keeps its brand in the background, so fans can feel like they're interacting with their favorite artists without venturing to third-party sites.

When consumers buy that Metallica t-shirt or pre-order that Wilco album at the respective artists' official Web sites, it's Musictoday that actually processes the orders and ships the material, even though the artist retains rights to the consumer's contact information. Among the company's other high-profile clients are Alanis Morissette, Eminem, Dave Matthews Band, Dixie Chicks, the Rolling Stones, Garbage, Jurassic 5 and Queens Of The Stone Age.

In addition to its artists-to-fans services, Musictoday.com also acts as a destination site, with news, features and album reviews. It uses its relationships with bands to stock its own online store, which can be searched by artist or label. Finally, the site hosts an extensive free tour-date database, which provides concert information by artist or location.


AppleAN APPLE A DAY: Mac users with OS 10 or greater who haven't yet signed up for the Apple iTunes Music Store could be in for a treat. The computer company has begun a promotion in which it will give away one 10GB iPod digital music player every day for a month to users creating new iTunes Music Store accounts.

The promotion runs through Sept. 20, and any user who creates a new account at the Store by that date will automatically be entered into the daily drawing. Names of registrants remain in the pool until the final drawing, so early signups have more chances of winning. For more information, visit Apple's official Web site.


Chris CarrabbaTHE SHINING DASHBOARD LIGHT: Dashboard Confessional's fourth album, "A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar" (Vagrant) made a big splash on The Billboard 200 last week, with a No. 2 debut -- more than 100 spots higher than the Southern Florida emo stars' previous peak on that chart. The album also made history on Internet playlists during its first week in stores: it became the first album released on an independent label to debut in the Gracenote Digital Top 20, representing the most-played albums on the Internet. Vagrant is distributed by TVT.

"A Mark" bowed at No. 12 on the Gracenote list, which typically has little movement at the top -- the 11 discs ahead of the Dashboard album were the same top 11 from the previous week. The album also chimed in at No. 9 on Billboard's Top Internet Album Sales chart giving the Chris Carrabba-led band's its best showing on that tally.