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Tuesday Dec. 26, 2000

Say Goodbye To The Old, Hello To The New

Year 2000 was a mixed bag, but Year 2001 looks rosy indeed.

By Michael Goldberg

With the end of 2000 fast approaching, it's time to reflect — on the year that's just about run out, and the year that awaits us. For the digital music business, Year 2000 was a nightmare, and the bloodletting isn't over. Hundreds of people lost their jobs at online music companies. Sites were shut down, including the one I founded six years ago, Addicted To Noise. Others are still limping along, praying that their stock prices will stop dropping and that they'll start turning a profit.

This was the year of Napster, an outlaw file-sharing service that ballooned to over 40 million users and in the process shook the corporate music business out of its deep sleep. Well, at least the corporate giants blinked their eyes for a moment or two. I'm still not convinced that they're taking the online music space seriously.

For those that were paying attention, Napster was a real wake-up call, proof positive that the right "killer app" (with the right business plan — you know, a way to actually make money) could, within months, scale up into a gigantic, thriving business. Don't be surprised if someone with a good idea really hits the ground running in 2001.

In Year 2000, popular music hit a low we haven't seen, well, since the Spice Girls' debut some years back. When MTV can air a half-hour show on the making of a Mandy Moore video (really!), you know something is frighteningly wrong. I keep hoping that the teen-pop thing will finally begin to fade out, along with the new corporate rock (Creed, Matchbox Twenty, etc., etc.). It really is time for a wave of great rock/hip-hop to come up from the underground and just wash all the crap away.

This was the year that the Smashing Pumpkins (and England's Melody Maker) called it quits.

Hold On Hope

It wasn't all bad.

This was the year Everclear proved they've got staying power. We saw the return of Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, ex-Mazzy Star vocalist Hope Sandoval and ex-Red House Painters leader Mark Kozalek.

We got good albums from U2 and the Wallflowers, PJ Harvey and Marilyn Manson, the Wu-Tang Clan and Pearl Jam (a zillion great live-show CDs — what a concept, and more to come!), the Dandy Warhols and Madonna and Rage.

Below the radar, much great new music emerged. At the Drive-In, Grandaddy, Modest Mouse, Coldplay, Deltron 3030, Blackalicious, Dilated Peoples, De La Soul, the Mekons, Sleater-Kinney, The Need, Steve Earle, Richard Ashcroft, Greg Brown, Shelby Lynne, Solex and Cat Power were just some of the artists who really delivered the goods.

This was the year Vivek Tiwary launched, a very promising Web site for musicians. Vivek is a passionate young man. He's got the kind of energy and spirit it takes to create something great, and already his site (the advisory board of which I joined a month ago) kicks ass.

This was the year of Ladyfest, the amazing cultural festival in Olympia, Washington. That single event demonstrated that the spirit of the riot grrrl movement is alive and well. It showed that young women everywhere are being inspired to take control of their lives, and to be artists. I'm certain we will witness the birth of countless innovative female-led bands in the next few years, bands inspired by the collective braintrust that spearheaded Ladyfest.

Not On The Same Trip

For me personally, 2000 was a very strange year. After nearly six years of working on first Addicted To Noise, then SonicNet, I quit the company that had become the owner of SonicNet, a morally bankrupt thing called MTVi.

Saying goodbye to something you have put your heart and soul into is not an easy thing. Equally difficult was watching the corporate monster (MTV Networks) put some kind of bloodless creature in place to run SonicNet. I did learn something: Do not trust smiling men in tweed sport coats who talk like they've read too many New Age management books and think they can earn cred by getting naked and joining their employees in the Jacuzzi.

It is a sad thing that most of the people in power in the music business, and those who control the airwaves, care a whole lot about money and not at all about good music. In many cases, they can't even tell good music when they hear it. One such genius proudly admitted that he "just didn't get" electronic music. I can't tell you how many people in the music business don't even listen to new music, unless it's by Eric Clapton or Sting or some artist they know is "approved."

So I quit my job as Editor in Chief at the site that MTVi still calls "SonicNet." They own the name; they can keep using it for any piece of junk they want. Not that it's all junk; there are still some good people there, and the music news department continues to deliver some excellent journalism. But SonicNet is no longer the great site it once was. Most of the people that made it great in 1997 and 1998 (the high point) are gone. Cliché or not, a company really is the people who work there.

SonicNet (and Addicted To Noise) had a lot of great people. I don't want to start naming them because it would be a long list, and I'd hate to leave anyone out. Suffice it to say that at least 90% of the people who worked at SonicNet from 1997 through 1999 put 150% of themselves into that site. We lived and breathed SonicNet. SonicNet had spunk! It was a fighter and an innovator. Now it's just a Viacom asset.

Once Was A Gambler

It will certainly take me a while to get that bad MTVi taste out of my mouth. But about a month ago, as I floundered about doing my best to figure out what I really wanted to spend my time doing, a funny thing happened: I created a new Web site,

I hadn't planned on it. Really. The idea was simply to put up a kind of online portfolio, a place where I could show potential consulting clients what I was up to. But once a version of the site was up, I started feeling that old rush that I'd felt during the first few years of Addicted To Noise.

It was like I couldn't help myself. Before I knew it, the site had been transformed into a new alternative-music magazine. And some great people, some that I'd worked with in the Addicted To Noise/SonicNet days, others that I'm working with for the first time, came on board.

Already, the site is getting the kind of passionate feedback that we used to get at Addicted To Noise. "I really think that you have one of the best sites out there," wrote one person. "Keep up the incredible work. Sites like yours are really an inspiration. I think you set an example for the music industry."

I don't really know where this will all lead, but I can tell you that Year 2001 is looking very, very good.

Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

© 2000 Michael Goldberg. All rights reserved.