The Tangled Web

The Web's most intriguing music-related destinations. This week: An R.E.M. file-trading service and the Dandy Warhols' Web tour.

Keeping you up to date on the Web's most intriguing music-related happenings and destinations.

SHARE IN THE PLACE WHERE YOU LIVE: The generally unpoliced wide world of peer-to-peer file sharing can seem overwhelming, especially for users sifting through services to find specific rare or live tracks by their favorite bands. Naturally, many services are chock-full of unlicensed music, continually drawing the ire of the recording industry. In a reaction to this, the online hubs of a few bands have put into motion artist-approved file-sharing services that take advantage of the technology by dealing in only legitimate or sanctioned trading of live concerts and rare recordings.

A prime example is the service run on R.E.M. fan site Murmurs.com. "Give It Away," named after one of the band's songs, is a peer-to-peer network that uses WinMX software to connect R.E.M. fans and allow them to trade live and unreleased music by the pop/rock veterans. The service was launched in October 2001 and its creators say it averages about 170 gigabytes of regularly traded material.

R.E.M. has given its blessing to the service, says site founder Ethan Kaplan, on the condition that it is not used to transfer album tracks or official, label-released material. The Give It Away download page contains specific instructions on what is and is not allowed for sharing on the service. The only exceptions to the "officially released" rule are R.E.M. b-sides and fanclub singles, which "the band have given their permission to share on this service," reads the statement.

A crew of 15 moderators takes turns monitoring the service to ensure the rules are complied with, and they have the authority to ban any user who fails to follow the guidelines.

Now that R.E.M. has embarked on its first world tour in four years in Europe, Give It Away has become flooded with material, predominantly live concerts. Kaplan says the service, which didn't exist at the time of the band's last large-scale tour, is a useful tool for fans looking to get a taste of the group's current sound. Recordings from the tour opener in Utrecht, Holland, and the second show in Amsterdam were up on the network within a couple hours of the concerts. "I have a feeling that we'll be seeing this trend continue," Kaplan says.

Kaplan adds that R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, a noted record collector and bootleg aficionado, has gone on record applauding the service and the fact that it "cuts out the bootleg middleman." In other words, if his band isn't going to make money from concert recordings, he's glad that fans can get the music without a third party reaping profits.

As previously reported, cult rock duo Ween is developing a peer-to-peer service that would operate in a similar fashion to Give It Away. The band is hoping to make "WeenAmp," as the software is tenatively dubbed, available on its forthcoming Sanctuary album "quebec," due Aug. 5. The service would be regulated by the band itself and would allow users to swap live shows and other MP3s as well as view other multimedia, such as video cybercasts of shows on the band's upcoming tour.


ODD AND DANDY: Capitol retro-popsters the Dandy Warhols, with a new album "Welcome to the Monkey House" due Aug. 19, are planning two tours in support of the release. The band will embark on a concert trek Aug. 24 at Los Angeles' Sunset Junction Street Fair. But in an intriguing twist, the group is also kicking off a "Web tour" today (July 1).

What is a Web tour? Well, the band has created a site to promote itself and its new album. "The Odditorium," named after the Warhols' Portland, Ore.-based studio headquarters, features short films, rare and unreleased music, previews of the new album, news, archives and other assorted media. The site will open to the public Sept. 1 at www.theodditorium.com, but until then, it will only be available via a rotating schedule of partner sites -- effectively taking a "tour" around the Web.

True to its name, the Odditorium is available starting today at a porn site called Suicidegirls. It will spend a week each at eight more sites leading up to the Sept. 1 official Odditorium site launch. Among the partner host sites are gaming/entertainment network Ugo.com, gay and lesbian news hub Gaywired.com, fashion magazine Lucire.com, WindowsMedia.com and VirginMega.com.