The FezGuys
A Review of Five Sites to Place Your Song
[ No. 35 - September 1999 ]

Hello. This month we break all the rules, act like we don't know what we're doing and try placing songs on a bunch of different websites. We pretend we're coming at Internet audio for the first time. Is it a kinder, gentler and leveled playing field of a World Wide Web, or are things as complex and obtuse as the business of business typically make them?

We chose five mainstream sites: <>, <>, <>, <>, and <>. We encoded a three minute and thirty-three second song called "Diamond Mine" (bandname: Doormouse, co-produced by one of us FezGuys) to an MP3 file using Xing's Audiocatalyst. With wide eyes and hearts full of hope we fired up the modem...


Our first visit takes us to IUMA (the Internet Underground Music Archive). Created in 1993 by some charming and unwashed geeks with too much access to computers at the University of California at Santa Cruz, it's the oldest and most venerable of the independent music databases. Upon arriving at the space-age/jazzbo site we locate "Artist Uplink." Purporting to "offer you the ability to create, maintain and customize your own website" this is IUMA's entry (now that they are owned by bigger fish E-Music) into free web site hosting. It's deja-vu all over again as this is what IUMA was about when it began.

This site requires a javascript-enabled browser (Netscape 4.0 or MSIE 4.0). Clicking on the Artist Uplink area gets us to a sign-up sheet. It's clearly detailed and the popup window help function is well-designed.

We fill out the rather long entry form. They want to know everything and we don't want to tell them everything, especially our phone number. It says we must so we lie. We are assigned our own mini-domain name in the form of: . This is better than a confusing URL you might get by hosting with a local ISP, though not as good as registering <> (which, sadly, is already taken). There are two identical contact info areas and, as we finish one and click through to the next we find that the info must be completely filled out again. It would be easy to write a piece of script to copy this info for us.

Finally we are uploading our image and song and, unfortunately, there's no status indicator in the uplink window. This would be a very useful function to have so we know how long we have to wait. Since there are always long pauses between mouse clicks it is often hard to tell if anything is happening (i.e.: did my click take?). IUMA automatically creates a RealAudio file from our mp3 file (which is nice) but the dialog info on the RealPlayer doesn't automatically make use of the author, title and copyright fields. A simple fix at IUMA would configure their RealAudio conversion process for this.

Finally we're alerted to successful uploads and offered a template from which to choose the design of our little area. The templates are relatively inoffensive and, as we have a password, we can go back anytime and change anything.

We are asked to wait "up to 24 hours" to see the completed page but receive an email mere hours later from "Arti Shtuplink" (cute) announcing our area is ready. Everything works. We make a couple minor changes to the bio text and we're done.

All in all IUMA's site, directions and presentation are very straightforward and reasonably simple. The finished product looks good. The audio is clean. This site is recommended.

ease of use easy
design groovy
tech support undetermined
expected consumer experience airport lounge, all planes running on time
overall recommended

This is a very busy but well-organized frontpage of links, resources and data. We find the link to add our song well hidden at the bottom right under the name: "Artists Only." The font is tiny. We login and get a password. Again, lots of forms to fill out and a phone number or two to falsify.

After the contact sheets we're snowed by the "terms of service" agreement which, going well beyond mere legalese, pitches us on as *the* site for Internet audio music downloads. We're already taking advantage of their services and don't need to be sold. Unlike IUMA puts our previously entered info directly into the next contact form, saving a few minutes.

When we first upload our little picture we receive an error message stating our JPEG image was "not an image file". The site vaguely warned of problems like this but offered no solution. We change the image from a "progressive" JPEG to a "standard" JPEG and the upload takes. The site (like IUMA) automatically sizes images, saving us that step.

We hit the song upload button and wait. It's not's fault. 56k modems routinely provide for data transfer speeds of 40kbps and down, depending on your connection. Again, it would be extremely useful if there were a way to know how long the upload is taking and how long there is to go. After about twenty-five minutes we receive an alert. The song has been successfully uploaded.

As with IUMA, automatically creates a RealAudio version from our uploaded mp3 file. There is a product recommendation to use the MusicMatch mp3 encoder on the site. It would be interesting to know if that recommendation was because of a technical preference or a business alignment. MusicMatch is not our encoder of choice but it doesn't suck.

The Doormouse site is up and running almost immediately after uploading the audio. Overall our experience with is positive, if time-consuming. Changes are easy to make and the downloads tracking section is a big bonus. It's easy to see just how invisible you really are on the pop radar! The site is recommended.

ease of use good
design form follows content
tech support undetermined
expected consumer experience day trading in a bull market
overall recommended

The Rolling Stone magazine site () takes forever to load. It's busy, confusing and unclear on where to upload music. Unnecessary animations slow the process down. Whoever thinks they need 'em, well, you're wrong. We follow a link that squawks: "New Stars Wanted!" How lame is that? Everytime we change a window on this site it takes about a minute to load. This site is too slow.

First we are told to register as members. They require our date of birth. That's weird. We lie about that of course. After all, if we want to be "new stars" we don't want anybody to know how old we are. It's confusing to first sign up for a "member account" and then be required to sign up again as an "artist account." The contact info isn't repeated between member and artist forms. We fill it out all over again.

We upload our graphic image (sized to the required 200 by 200 pixels) and receive this puzzling alert:

File doormouse%20200x200.jpg posted successfully. Reposting to URL '' failed.

Does that mean the image is there but, somehow, not there? We go back to the Doormouse area to look. It's not there.

We attempt to upload our song. We fill out track name, running time, creation date and then press "Create Track." We are sent to a page that says: "Track created successfully." We haven't even uploaded the damn song yet! Where the hell do you actually upload the music? Scrolling down this window we find, buried in a list of fine print, the words: "Upload new song." Eureka! We follow directions and upload the song. Again, it would be swell to know how long the upload is taking. When we all have broadband access, this won't be an issue. Our three-plus minute song will upload in four seconds. But for now, it's about forty minutes. We finally receive another puzzling alert:

File DiamondMine.mp3 posted successfully. Reposting to URL '' failed.

These conflicting messages without further explanation are maddening. Is it there or not? We go back to the Doormouse area to check. The audio file is not there. This is very confusing. In the so-called "Artist Area" (where we're supposed to make edits, changes, upload material and preview) there are two locations to upload either graphic and music files. All four links give the same error message. Is anybody there? If the files were transferred successfully, as the dialog box states, why the failure message? And where are the files?

Perhaps the new music editors at Rolling Stone simplify their job by preventing people from uploading music in the first place. After several hours of trying different methods we give up. This site is not recommended.

Just as we went to press we received this polite email from an associate editor at <>:

"We thought we had that error fixed on Monday...feel free to email me your image(s) and I'll be glad to upload them for you. Sorry about the frustration."

ease of use frustrating
design Tina Brown takes over at Seventeen magazine
tech support helpful
expected consumer experience voicemail hell
overall needs streamlining

Placing our song on the "Ultimate Band List" is long, involved and very frustrating. We wonder who designs these interfaces and whether or not they actually use them. Again the audio uploads are painfully slow and we're just hanging out on the line, not knowing how long it's going to leave us here.

We finally get the song file uploaded but the site shuts the door in our face. After attempting to upload the bio and image file we receive this helpful little prompt:

An error occurred on the server when processing the URL. Please contact the system administrator.

Upon emailing a request for help we receive this reply:

"Unfortunately, we are currently experiencing a problem with the Bio upload field and Bio Image upload field. Our programmers are working hard to fix this bug and we are making progress each and every day."

Each and every day. Hopefully by next year it might work. So there it sits. The songfile sounds fine but without graphics or bio info it's just another name on a list. Maybe it will sit there for all eternity, or as long as UBL's server infrastructure exists. And, almost immediately the site spams us with a retail/vacation offer email. The big question is: what business, exactly, is in? You'll need to bring extra patience pillows to this site. There's a huge amount of information and remains a popular Web destination. The FezGuys say: check it out, but don't waste too much time on it.

ease of use confusing
design candy raver
tech support optimistic but ineffectual
expected consumer experience sitting in a gridlock
overall has a long way to go

The design of is thouroughly messed up. It looks like it's optimized for a mutant Atari-based browser. To upload a song we must click on "musicians only", feeling vaguely manipulated (as if it's supposed to make us feel special in some way).

Our attempts to upload "Diamond Mine" and our graphic image are continuously rebuffed. A dialog box says "a song by that name already exists." When we search for "Diamond Mine" we come up empty-handed. It's odd that a site should limit an artist's right to use a song title. We notice yet another helpful little message stating that:

"Some people have reported trouble saving to the bio page."

The message goes on to recommend continued reposting until the site accepts your file. Again, very time-consuming. We keep trying. We're the FezGuys, after all. After fending us off again and again we're ready to throw in the towel. Suddenly it appears that we may be well on our way, after all. Apparently, the "submit" page was patiently waiting for us to electronically sign a "terms of service agreement." We finally get a message promising "approval and posting in 72 hours."

After several days, we receive this email: "it appears that ("Diamond Mine") did not upload correctly so we have no file for it. Unfortunately, we had to reject your song. If you could please upload the song again we could then approve it." We try again. Again we receive the 72 hour wait message. We're still waiting.

The FezGuys say: these lovelies need to go back to the drawing board.

ease of use not easy
design late seventies metalhead
tech support present and accounted for
expected consumer experience unemployment waiting room
overall needs more duct tape
Bottom Line

The FezGuys recommend you have a 200x200 pixel image prepared. Also: have your bio, lyric sheet, and credits ready for cutting and pasting. You'll appreciate not having to type the same 200-word biography into each site. Allow roughly 10-15 minutes to fill out forms, and an additional 20 and 40 minutes per song upload (56k modem dialup), depending on traffic, weather and the mood of the servers at your ISP. This entire exercise can be viewed as time-consuming, frustrating and possibly pointless. Of course, if you have the time, there's nothing but time to lose and, who knows, you might get noticed. When you're done go to , a portal site that reviews music online. Go to the "submit music" link.

It's likely that a musician's chances of getting noticed by popular culture using the World Wide Web are about as hopeful as getting "signed" by a major label. Not quitters though, your FezGuys, oh no. Where the good stuff exists we'll find it and bring it to you.

The FezGuys never say "whatever." We care a lot!



About the authors:

Jon Luini is a working technophile, a musician (bass player/singer) with full-blown facility and extensive experience on the Web and no free time. He is a co-founder of IUMA and MediaCast, co-creator of Addicted To Noise, and runs an Internet and music consulting and technology company, Chime Interactive (formerly Evolve Internet Solutions). <>

Allen Whitman is a working musician (bass player/singer/producer) with a keen, real-world interest in the practical use of the Web. Music credits include: The Mermen, "Brine-The Antisurf Soundtrack, biL, Deep Field South, Doormouse, Delectric and Drizzoletto. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, Wired, EQ, Revolution, Yahoo Internet Life, Prosound News, Surround Professional, Replication News and others. <>

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