The Tangled Web

The Web's most intriguing music-related destinations. This week:, the Dead's live recordings, and the Int'l Songwriting Competition.

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

MUSIC FROM THE FISH'S MOUTH: Internet users who have a tough time trudging through the Web to find authorized MP3s, streaming music, video clips, or other assorted bits of multimedia can now turn to, a search engine devoted entirely to media files. While Yahoo, Google and the other major search engines return Web sites, Web pages or occasionally PDF files, Singingfish sets itself apart by returning search results in the form of direct links to WindowsMedia, RealAudio, RealVideo, QuickTime, MP3 and other multimedia files.

The site uses a combination of human input and automation to search for, collect, and catalog its database of media files, of which it claims to have more than 10 million. As CEO Karen Howe explains, a search engine like Singingfish is not run the same way as text search engines like Yahoo and Google.

"Searching for text is more straightforward, because you have a page with a bunch of words on it. From those words you can make a pretty clear case as to what that page is about. Music is way different. Because of the encoding, you have to use software from the manufacturers of the players themselves to figure out the metadata."

Metadata is encoded data attached to each media file that stores such information as the name of the artist or author, name of the song or file, the streaming bit rate, and the length of the clip. Singingfish updates the metadata of each file it locates and catalogs, which helps fuel searches and allows the site to post all relevant information on any results page.

While Singingfish currently catalogs "millions" of downloadable MP3s in addition to its streaming content, users shouldn't expect to find unlicensed tracks or illicit advance music.

"We never scour FTP sites; we are only looking for legal content," Howe said. "And if someone has an issue with a song we indexed that is not intended for free public download, they can just contact us and we'll remove the file."

The company has also implemented its search engine on a number of other sites and media players, including the RealOne and WindowsMedia players, and now gets about a million and a half queries a day, according to Howe. But it has also taken the time recently to add a couple of new features to the site, including the ability to search by multiple fields (such as title and artist) and to e-mail a found clip or file to a friend.

The DeadDEAD MUSIC COMES ALIVE: The Dead, the core of which comprises the surviving members of the Grateful Dead, embarked on the 25-date Summer Getaway tour Sunday (June 15) at Manchester, Tenn.'s Bonnaroo Festival. The legendary jam band has decided to follow the lead of some of its younger heirs and offer fans the opportunity to purchase live recordings of its summer concerts through its official Web site.

For most of its Summer Getaway concerts, the band will press triple-CD sets from the original soundboard recordings, mastered by engineer Dennis "Wiz" Leonard, and make them available for $22 from the Web site. The group also plans to offer a commemorative CD box of all the available recordings from the tour after it wraps in mid-August.

STRUM YOUR STUFF: The International Songwriting Competition (ISC), a contest offering $100,000 in cash prizes and exposure opportunities for aspiring artists from around the globe, is accepting online entries. The 2003 edition of the 2-year-old contest invites any musician, band, or solo artist to submit entries in MP3 form through the ISC's official Web site as well as through the mail.

The Web site hosts a wealth of information about the contest, including rules, categories, and MP3 files of last year's winning songs. A team of music industry notables have signed on to judge the competition, including Universal Records president Monte Lipman, Manhattan Records VP/GM Arif Mardin, Capitol Jazz/Classics CEO/president Bruce Lundvall, and artists Rob Thomas, Vanessa Carlton, Guru, Nile Rodgers, Pat Metheny, and Paul Oakenfold.