Is Alanis top of the Net pops?

The "Silicon CD" isn't quite the same as a platinum record.


Janelle Brown
September 29, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

Who's the most popular musician of the wired world? CDDB, a relatively obscure technology company, claims to know -- and its answer is Canadian Rapunzel Alanis Morissette. This week, in a backstage ceremony at Morissette's concert, CDDB officially awarded the singer with the "Silicon CD" -- the digital equivalent, CDDB claims, of the RIAA's gold and platinum record measurement. As its Web site puts it, "Gold records are tired and Silicon CDs are wired!"

How would CDDB know who is the most popular musician? Well, CDDB is a technology company that provides song information to many of the Net's most popular music playback devices, such as the WinAmp player and the RealJukebox. In other words, every time you are online and pop a CD into one of over 40 music players that are CDDB-enabled, your player accesses CDDB's database of 430,000 CDs and provides you with real-time artist and song information.

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That database receives approximately 10 million song requests a month, which, CDDB argues, gives them detailed information about which songs are being listened to the most. Artists who stay in their list of top 10 most-played songs for 30 days straight receive a Silicon CD award. So far, those awards -- founded in July -- have gone to Britney Spears, Korn and, of course, Alanis Morissette.

Apparently, this means that Internet fans love to listen to the same mainstream pop rock that the rest of America loves. Or does it?

Alanis' online popularity probably has something to do with her savvy support of the MP3 format. She may be at the top of the CDDB charts, but her latest album didn't receive the plaudits of "Jagged Little Pill" and has dropped from the Billboard charts. But Alanis has apparently gained momentum from her endorsement of -- and promotion by -- the ever-popular MP3.com. (In exchange for endorsing MP3.com and letting them sponsor her tour, Alanis received 650,000 shares of MP3.com stock at 33 cents per share. Those shares are now worth roughly $24 million.)

Still, even if Alanis tops CDDB's charts, she isn't consistently showing up as the most popular musician across the Web. CDDB's measurements, after all, only cover those Internet users who have CDDB-enabled music playback software -- and there are plenty of other search engines that have their own measurements for most-popular Internet bands.

For example, at the music search engine Scour.Net, the most popular legal music download at the moment is not Alanis Morissette, Korn or Britney Spears, but something called "The Fart Song." And, ironically, Alanis has dropped from MP3.com's "Daily Top 40" charts -- instead, the list is currently topped by a techno-trance track called "Atomic Dance Explosion."

Over at the music download directory Listen.com, Alanis does hold today's most-downloaded spot, but the list of bands seated below her on the chart also holds some surprises -- sure, the Grateful Dead is understandable, but who would have expected to see Aimee Mann
(formerly of 'Til Tuesday) there? And according to Listen.com spokesperson Sean Garrett, the chart was topped for two months earlier this year by an unknown band called the Supreme Beings of Leisure, which had yet to release an album.

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It seems there is hope for obscure and underground music online after all. Sure, Alanis tops some charts, but in the world of the Web, it's heartening to see that the "Atomic Dance Explosions" and Aimee Manns do have a chance against the Alanis Morissettes of the world. Perhaps the next band to be awarded the Silicon CD will not be yet more pop pabulum from the likes of Ricky Martin or the Backstreet Boys, but the fine, fine musicians behind "The Fart Song."


Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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