Conjunction Junction

The All-Music Guide Wants To Make Scrabble out of Babel

Erlewine acknowledges the median lameness of AMG's initial writing, but argues he had to start somewhere. He's already added a Views feature that supplements standard bios with additional vignettes, to make the writing around the biggies read more like a debate than a low-rent encyclopedia. Next month he's starting a magazine on the site, tentatively titled Allmusic.com Zine, under the journeyman stewardship of Jas Obrecht, formerly of Guitar Player, and Thom Jurek of The Detroit Metro Times. It sounds awfully rockish to begin with—Wilco, Ben Harper, and Howlin' Wolf features— but the plan is to make it far broader; we shall see. More intriguingly, Erlewine intends to hold a symposium in Ann Arbor this spring or summer to hash out the conceptual questions in full. Immersed in the multitasking imperatives of the Net, he argues that writing, in the traditional sense, is only a piece of the challenge of finding "new ways of amalgamating, creating a unity... see the whole thing just spinning into the future, growing and refining itself. These are new problems that have never been approached before."

AMG plans to unveil a rock family tree linkup soon, just the sort of enterprise that gets them excited. Nuanced criticism that brings the Talmudic, subterranean nature of the best music writing over the years to the surface will have to wait for someone else, probably. This is something different, an attempt to harvest bushels of data and the fact that some listener out there has the commonplace skinny on just about anything. There's something romantic about a bunch of Middle American collectors, the sort who once might have kept index cards, turning into a major new staple of music media. Database accumulation—it's the new jukebox!

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