The Web's most intriguing music-related destinations. This week: Okayplayer.com and Limp Bizkit.
JUST A PLAYER: Started in 1999 by Roots drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, Okayplayer.com has evolved into one of the Internet's largest hip-hop communities. Okayplayer has thrived because it doesn't just host official sites for like-minded hip-hop artists such as the Roots, Common, Dilated Peoples and D'Angelo, it also calls on the artists to participate.
Musicians are routinely found lurking around Okayplayer's message boards, and when a poster last week claimed to be the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams, a debate raged the entire day about whether or not it really was him. With so many artists involved in Okayplayer, imposters are hard to spot.
"We were in here wondering whether or not it was him, too," Okayplayer GM Dan Petruzzi says. "There was been a lot of artist activity on the site lately. Evidence from Dilated Peoples finally bought a computer, and he was all proud of it and came on the site and registered and now he's a regular poster. Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas and Skillz post often, and ?uestlove is constantly posting. We hope this doesn't spark a trend with our users where they think it's funny to try and impersonate different artists."
Okayplayer, after all, has been built on a mutual respect between fans and artists. Last year, the site dedicated the month of October to its female posters, and each day spotlighted a different user on the site's home page. This August, the site will offer its first "photography month," during which it will display the work of independent photographers who are part of the Okayplayer community. The site has already launched a separate book section to promote underground authors and review political texts that Okayplayer hopes will attract the attention of fans of the socially aware Roots.
"We try to provoke intellectualism," Petruzzi says. "The vision of our site was always to be the premier site for left-of-center artists, a place where fans of those artists and that lifestyle could congregate and not only discuss music, but culture and whatever else was on their minds."
Indeed, Okayplayer is going to start promoting its art-focused, independent lifestyle offline as well. Sometime in the next year or so, Petruzzi hopes to launch the non-profit Okayplayer Foundation. The organization will seek out noteworthy young musicians and help fund their art.
"We just started laying down the initial framework for what it's going to be," Petruzzi says. "The general idea is provide a service to aspiring, independent artists. Our site has been a great platform for people trying to be heard. We'd like to extend that by helping talented people have the opportunity to pursue their art."
Also in the planning stages is an Okayplayer compilation CD. "It'll be our first release on our record label," Petruzzi says. "It will feature the Roots, Dilated Peoples, Skillz, Little Brother and some other Roots-crew members. We are looking to do it this year, but if it gets too late into the fourth quarter, we'll probably wait to release it until early next year. We just don't want it to get lost in the whole holiday-season mess."
Yet as Okayplayer begins its offline endeavors, users don't have to worry about the site's three-person staff neglecting the Web. For one thing, Petruzzi says Okayplayer.com will soon feature a revamped news section. Currently, the site gives its news in nonchalant, almost stream-of-consciousness paragraphs.
"The casual creative writing we do is great for the user who comes back everyday, but it doesn't serve the user who wants some quick information," Petruzzi says. "The people who just want to know where the Roots are playing probably don't want to read all that's been posted. We're trying to walk the line between the fanatic and the sporadic user."
GET YOUR HOT LIVE BIZKIT: Limp Bizkit will play an invitation-only concert at New York's Webster Hall Wednesday (July 16) that will be broadcast on AOL for Broadband's "BroadBAND Rocks!" concert series. The concert will be the fourth live broadcast for the series, which makes archival concert performances available on a weekly basis for AOL for Broadband users.
The show will be streamed starting at 9 p.m. ET for AOL for Broadband users at AOL Keyword: Broadband Rocks. Additionally, it will be available on-demand for one week. The show follows live "BroadBAND Rocks!" concerts by Foo Fighters, Staind and Lou Reed; more are expected to take place later this year.
The Limp Bizkit show will also kick off AOL's All Access summer program, offering broadband and narrowband AOL users access to behind-the-scenes features about the group, including frontman Fred Durst's tour diary, backstage photos and a host of video clips and other multimedia. As previously reported, an as-yet-untitled forthcoming Limp Bizkit album is tentatively due in September. The album will feature new guitarist Mike Smith.
The All Access program (AOL Keyword: All Access) will continue with other bands throughout the coming months, offered in conjunction with a handful of additional live "BroadBAND Rocks!" concerts.