Article: Point and click web site fills in the blanks

SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE

Point and Click Web site Fills in the Blanks

Pam Dixon writes about technology and the arts for the Union-Tribune.

By Pam Dixon February 18, 2001

In Internet years, the 43rd Grammy Awards are only five years old. They’ ve been online since 1996, with the Recording Academy and IBM partnering this year for the third time to create a Grammy Web site and a live Webcast of the show. While the companies’ first efforts were respectable, the third time appears to be the charmer.

Finally, the alliance has produced a compelling, highly interactive site that gives music lovers real motivation to power up their computers and check out the Grammys online. Many of the expected items can be found on the site. There are lists of all the nominees, plenty of articles and interviews, an official store and general Grammy information and background.

Where the site sets itself apart this year is in a greatly improved area called the IBM Media Console, an interactive multimedia theater where visitors can see live Webcasts and get detailed audio and visual information. Snippets of unexpectedly rich video, backstage views from cleverly placed little Web cams and live Webcasts of the Grammys are all part of this online showcase.

“We’ re particularly proud of the media console. It is an interactive feature that allows people to get the backstage experience of being at the Grammys, and it will give people a sneak peak behind the scenes,” says Joyce Lagas, an IBM spokeswoman. The media console, available by visiting www.grammy.com, is designed to be a counterpart to the show’ s televised broadcast. “It’ s not designed to replace the televised broadcast,” Lagas emphasizes. “It’ s complementary.”

Michael Greene, the Recording Academy’ s president and CEO, wholeheartedly concurs. “There are only a few people who get to really come to the Grammys. And the TV experience is what it is — it’ s just a few hours. What we have been trying to do for the last five years is to create an environment online where people can really be fans.”

For this year’ s festivities, Greene is making sure various Grammy events that fans wouldn’ t otherwise see find a home online. “We have over 122 Grammy Fest events during February,” he says. “We’ re sending out cameras to many of them — like the Latin nominees’ celebration — and putting the material on the Web site.”

The Web site’ s schedule is full, to say the least. Right now, site visitors can read articles, hear interviews with the nominees and view video highlights of past Grammys. It’ s magic to watch Ella Fitzgerald singing “Satin Doll” at the 1967 Grammys, or Aerosmith grinding out a rendition of “Come Together” from 1991.

If the past doesn’ t capture your interest, beginning today visitors can see live Webcasts of the Grammy rehearsals, and can take in the views from Web cams positioned backstage. The twist is that online fans can control the “Grammy cams” robotically by clicking on controls within the media console. Then on Wednesday, the live Webcast of the Grammys itself, to which Lagas expects to attract at least 2 million viewers. While she is quick to point out that a Webcast is no substitute for television, Lagas notes that the televised broadcast of the Grammys is just the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of what is really happening.

The Webcast is designed to fill in those gaps. “If you’ re a classical music or a gospel fan, or a fan of any category that gets left out of the televised broadcast, you can find all of the categories on the Web site,” Lagas says.

And if all the music just isn’ t enough, wannabe Joan Rivers fashionistas can use two robotic Web cams overlooking the red carpet to point, click and critique everyone’ s Grammy outfits.

Pam Dixon writes about technology and the arts for the Union-Tribune. ┬ęPam Dixon