A Muse's Muse Interview with Jay Schankman,
web designer of The Concert Web community of web sites
conducted by: Jerry Flattum
It's easy to take websurfing for granted. All the surfer needs is the information so desired. How that information got there is less important than its usefulness. In the name of expediency, so be it. But behind every website is a dedicated designer, often working alone, coding html late into the night and searching for that catchy little graphic or bit of info that just might make the surfer stay a little longer.
And behind one such site--one of the best sites for concert information and music resources--is Jay Schankman, web designer of The Concert Web. The Muse's Muse takes a rare look at one of the humans behind the hyper-machine.
Muse: In deserving of recognition, Muse asks, "Who are you?"
Jay: My name is Jay Schankman, and I am the owner of a new media development and marketing company called InterAd Marketing, based in St. Louis, Mo.
Muse: What kind of company is InterAd Marketing?
Jay: My company designs marketing programs for corporations and individuals. We specialize in promotion for bands, and other music and entertainment organizations.
Muse: Do you have a background in music?
Jay: I do. I am a musician and songwriter, and trained on several instruments through the years. I play keyboards and compose. jazz/rock/ambient/dance. My family is musical, at least four generations back. Grandpa was in the symphony, my aunt is a teacher and conductor, and my uncle is a concert promoter.
Muse: That certainly explains some of the influence in creating a website like The Concert Web. How did The Concert Web get started?
Jay: I officially launched my first web project--the St. Louis Concert Web--in November, 1994, after several months of playing with the online concert calendar idea. At the time it was one of the first "concert prep" sites on the web. It has since transformed into a virtual community of music lovers and music makers and showcases the musical heritage of St. Louis.
Muse: Didn't you have a site before that? Aardvark's Archive?
Jay: Yes, Aardvark's Archive Of General Musical Interest. I started that one shorly after the local project. It was originally called "The Hub". We might recall that AOL liked that name as well, and decided to use it several months after "The Hub" was launched. Why fight City Hall, you know? Aardvark's Archive was a jumpstation for music related sites, and one of the first to index the thousands of fan sites and zines that sprung up on the web in those early days. To my knowledge "Aardvark's Best Of The Web" was the first award given to websites that displayed outstanding musical content. I later changed the name, because I felt Aardvark's Archive Of General Musical Interest was too gimmicky for the direction I was taking. I was leaning more toward creating a site that would have commercial appeal. It was catchy though.
Muse: Don't feel so bad...so was the Beatle's name. (Note: As Jay was talking, a mini-Aardvark ran across the floor. Jay didn't see it. Chances are, it was a muse). So anyway, Aardvark...
Jay: Because of the size of Aardvark's Archive, and the dynamic state of the web with lots of sites moving/disappearing, the usefulness of Aardvark's index ran out within the first year. However, I did incorporate the main index within http://www.theconcertweb.com/., and receive several submissions each day, which are posted automatically. The index is still growing.
Muse: The Concert Web is a huge site. Does it have credibility?
Jay: I would imagine that a combined 1,000,000 hits per month on three of my domains--The St. Louis Concert Web, The Concert Web and World Music Marketplace--over a combined four year span, lends a certain amount of credibility. But how can I answer that question? It is up to the web community as a whole to report on the happenings in their regions. So it's more a statement of credibility of the online reporting collective. I only do my small part with The St. Louis Concert Web.
I learned from the Aardvark's project that a jumpstation site is only as valuable as the content it links to. I spent many months scouring the web, directories and search engines, city pages and media sites from around the world. I sought out the dedicated people and organizations behind the "concert webs" ..those who maintain fresh content. Information from over 300 markets in over 50 countries. I compiled it into one convenient package and spun it out there. This is also an experiment in building a brand in the new media.
Muse: (Humbly) Sorry. A million hits?
Jay: Raw hits, yes. The St. Louis Concert Web alone receives an average of 20,000 hits per day.
Muse: Any reviews?
Jay: In addition to the St. Louis Concert Web, The Concert Web was launched in December, 1997 and became a premier directory of live music and entertainment resources from around the world. This site has remained within the Top Ten Links [www.toptenlinks.com] by popular vote for many weeks and is currently at number two [as of 4/25/98]. Both MTV and AOL gave the St. Louis Concert Web a favorable review.
Muse: Well, now it's a question of where do you go from here. Are you updating, expanding?
Jay: Yes. There is functionality that is yet to be implemented. And a long way to go to build brand awareness. It's an ongoing process. The end goal is the formation of sizeable worldwide community and along with it commercial and free exchange of ideas, contacts, products and services.
Muse: Looking back at the past four years, you have undoubtedly seen a lot of change. What are some of the changes that have influenced the way you work now, and how do you expect to keep up with the changing future?
Jay: In many ways the web is less chaotic, despite the fact that there is so much information out there now than ever before. In the early days, when people like Jodi and myself were busy pecking out markup into our text editors, it was a much smaller world wide web; there was a real sense of community among us early birds. It was a very experimental time. Now we have a lot more conveniences, and the tools for web designers have cut our work down considerably. Life has gotten easier for most web designers I know.
Commercialism creeped in, no surprise to any of us. The quality of content has improved, and it is easier to find the good stuff. No doubt about it, network programming will soon claim the web its own. But will we buy that?
Muse: I don't know. Will we? What will it cost?
Jay: Hard to tell. It would depend on what exactly is made available at what premium. My feeling is that there are far too many individual projects for the freewheeling world wide web to just die off - the independent spirit will always thrive. There is a lot of content that is remarkably popular that will never be fed into our living rooms unless we choose to go out there and find it. Those subjects, materials, and ideas which governments the world over will not sanction, but will always be in demand by a large number of people. Once this information is available freely, it's hard to control, no less remove our right to it.
There will be what I call "The Coca Cola Web" that most people will associate with interactive television. Cable tv and satellite broadcasting will use this technology for the purposes of the advertisers and also for their own commercial use. Sub carriers that are associated with television signals - adding the interactive element to tv. This will offer the the ultimate convenience to purchase on impulse. The web will finally reach the masses, all of us sitting there watching tv with that remote control in hand.. conditioned to click when properly stimulated.
I am betting that our current generation of computer users are so accustomed to having the freedom of choice, that we may not be satisfied with what network programming will give us. Nothing less than full access to all content will do. The Web will still be viewed as alternative media, and this will appeal to an ever growing audience. Individual content providers can survive, and the alternative nature of this content will stand on its own. These are my projections. I can't guess too far ahead.
Muse: How will this technology affect songwriters in the future? How does it affect them now?
Jay: For the songwriter, I think there is and will always continue to be a tremendous opportunity for distributing promotional material and demoing new songs. Finding collaborative partners and actually collaborating in real time with other songwriters and musicians, regardless of their locale. Serving a fan base and attracting a broader audience. Barter and trade. And selling product. All very inexpensively. All of us, no matter what we do for a living, really need to look at how we can get the most out of this technology.
Muse: Do you see yourself progressing with the trends on into the millenium? What of the future of your projects?
Jay: I try remain flexible in every sense. (Jay demonstrates a seemingly painful yoga position, while typing his response). I have been selling cd's through World Music Marketplace since January. I'm using my other sites as the promotional vehicles for this online store. As to my expectations, I hope to spin off one or more of my projects, and put my attention to whatever I feel adds value and makes use of the web as an educational, and entertainment resource. If I can strike a balance between that and profitability, I'll consider this to be a good way to have spent my time. Hard to say exactlty what I'll be doing two years from now, but I see more opportunity opening up all the time.
Muse: Thanks Jay, for a peek behind-the-scenes of one the Internet's premier concert sites. By the way, where's Elton John playing this Summer?
Jay: I don't know. Look it up.
Muse: Best wishes in the future...
Jay: Thank you Muse. My best to you as well!
Jay Schankman firstname.lastname@example.org (314) 275-7509
The St. Louis Concert Web,
The Concert Web,
World Music Marketplace
ASK A QUESTION & FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
For a short bio, along with an intro to his columnist section, see : http://www.musesmuse.com/col-jerryflattum.html.