Tech Industry

Musicfest plays on Web

The creators of the Intel New York Music Festival say Net technology finally may have caught up with them.

The creators of the Intel New York Music Festival say Net technology finally may have caught up with them.

The festival, set to begin Wednesday, is a showcase of more than 300 bands performing in 20 Manhattan clubs over four days. All the clubs will offer audio Webcasts of the shows and pictures taken with a digital camera, and five will feature streaming video and audio, according to Michael Dorf, an executive producer of the festival.

Dorf and others who worked on the event see 1998 as a turning point for the festival, which began four years ago as the Macintosh New Media Festival. The first two years were wrought with technical glitches.

"In 1995, the technology [offered at the festival] was only chat," Dorf said. "That has improved significantly.

"In 1996, we had higher aspirations. But we were a bit overzealous--probably from reading Wired magazine," he added. "The technology wasn't really working yet. Last year, we achieved some success, working closely with RealNetworks. But certainly we were very green, and pioneers in the beginning."

Dorf noted that in the earlier years, "processing speeds and bandwidth weren't there." But over the last two years, streaming has evolved, bandwidth had increased, and users have adopted more sophisticated modems and other technologies so "we know [now] what it's like to cybercast and deliver to a global audience."

The Web home for the festival is designed to offer users access to the event plus additional content such as artist interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, community in the form of chat and bulletin boards, and e-commerce.

"The site aims to illustrate to music fans what is available on the Internet today," Dorf said.

To that end, music is delivered with two of the more widely used technologies: streaming from RealNetworks and previewing and digital downloading of music from Liquid Audio.

In the Liquid Lounge section of the site, users can download Liquid Audio's music player, as well as sound samples for free and full songs for a fee. Roughly 80 percent of the fee paid by consumers on the site will go to the artists, according to Dorf.

"That's completely against the grain of the music industry, where artists usually get 10 percent" from sales, he said.

Other e-commerce offerings include CD sales from N2K's Music Boulevard and customized CDs from My CD, featuring songs from several of the bands performing at the festival. This could mark a departure for the customized CD firm; analysts in the past have criticized custom CD companies for not offering the latest popular music.

Software also will be sold on the site via a link to Intel's SoftwareForPCs.com page on Barnes & Noble's site, said Wendy Hafner, director of music marketing for Intel. The page will offer special sales on music software during the festival, she added.

Jesus and Mary Chain, Sunny Day Real Estate, Joey Ramone, and the James Taylor Quartet are among the artists scheduled to perform, according to the event site. Intel, which conceived the site's features and capabilities, also will manage the site, Hafner said.

Unisys is the festival's hardware systems provider, and Exodus Communications is providing the server hosting and bandwidth service for the event.

Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network, publisher of NEWS.COM.