By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
In all likelihood, those of you who've not yet joined the computer revolution are blissfully unaware of the entertainment Web site competition that's heating up online. Digital City Denver, an invention of America Online, was the first to jump into the fray, with a service that provides a wide variety of listings as well as links to other publications. (Selected Westword copy, including this column, can be found by typing in the keyword "Denver" while on America Online.) US West subsequently stepped up with a similar site of its own, DiveIn (accessible at www.divein.com). And this September, the scary behemoth that is Microsoft is scheduled to roll out Sidewalk, an operation that's obviously got money to spend; a couple of Rocky Mountain News staffers have already jumped ship in order to toil in the shadow of future global dictator Bill Gates. (You can learn more about these sites online at www.westword. com, where we've conveniently linked Westword Web czar Chris LaMorte's recent article on the topic to this column.)
Of course, none of these corporate powerhouses have figured out how to turn a profit from such enterprises--but you can bet they'll pour ungodly amounts of lucre into them if for no other reason than to make certain that their adversaries go broke before they do. It's a toxic environment that would seem to be heavily weighted against the little guy interested in getting into the business for himself. But Denver photographer Vincent Vin is undeterred. Late last year he put up a site called Colorado Entertainment Net (www.dimensional.com/~vinvin/cen) that aspires to take on the big boys at their own game. And while CEN is not as wide-ranging as the utilities enumerated above, it's a quirky creation that exudes a charm all its own--not the least of which is Vin's primary reason for putting the entire thing together. "I guess I'd say it's just for the love of doing it," he says.
An Ohio native, Vin moved to Colorado in 1971--and when he settled in Denver a dozen years later, he found the music scene in the city so inspirational that he began keeping a list of significant bands. "It wasn't for publication or anything," he claims. "It was just something to help guide me around." He kept up with Denver sounds in this manner until last year, when he began to learn the rudiments of the World Wide Web and realized that he could use the technology to reach a wider audience. "I thought, rather than making it a sponsored publication, I'd give it away for free and worry about advertising in the future," he says.
CEN was launched in late 1996 and has grown regularly since then. On its home page, Vin describes his baby as "a devotional project resulting from years of research and compilation." At present it features more than 1,000 entries and 200 links to what he describes as "regional entertainment Web sites" associated with venues, publications and bands. Vin is a booster and openly invites musicians and artists to use CEN to promote themselves at absolutely no charge. (To learn more, e-mail Vin--the address is on the site--or call him at 329-3286.)
Still, what's best about CEN are its eccentricities, including a music section that nobly attempts to keep track of each performer who's passed through, prominent area acts and the "Cowtown Hall of Fame," a compendium of notables who have had at least a tenuous connection with Colorado entertainment. His site reveals that Jimmy Durante "reportedly lived on Capitol Hill in Denver at the Montgomery Court apartments on the 200 block of East 11th Avenue" before breaking into show business; recounts the time that Bob Dylan was hissed off the stage at the Satire Lounge, 1920 E. Colfax; and notes that Bill Murray spent time as a student at Regis College. (As an added plus, he omits Sinbad.) His publications section, meanwhile, is split between periodicals that are currently active, and a "dead media" area devoted to tomes no longer in existence, including The Glory Torch, whose slogan was "done butt naked on cold metal chairs."
At this point, Vin's magnificent obsession remains a well-kept secret; by his calculations, he's getting around forty visitors a day. But he's only just begun promoting CEN--by leaving brochures he made with his desktop Macintosh--at Wax Trax and Cricket on the Hill. Otherwise, he's trying to spread the news by word of mouth.
"I have entertainment aspirations myself," he concedes. "I've been writing a lot of songs over the past eleven years, so I look at it as a promotional vehicle for my own endeavors, to some degree. But it's also helping me to understand the entertainment community and how it works on a professional level. I want to know how bands succeed and how they fail--it's almost an anthropological interest. I just really enjoy it." That attitude will serve him well in a computer ocean where he's a guppy surrounded by sharks.
(Speaking of computers, here's a blatantly self-promotional item. This week marks the debut of Michael Roberts's Jukebox 2.0, an updated version of a page that's been an Internet tradition since way back in 1996. "The Sound Era," featuring unexpected musical moments in cinema, and "You Could Already Be a Winner," where answering a music-trivia question could earn you semi-valuable prizes, remain in place, but zones devoted to idiosyncratic 45s and pop-culture artifacts have been jettisoned in favor of "The Agony," which spotlights the worst CD of the week, and "The Ecstasy," focusing on a rave from the same period. You can access this stuff by typing in the address at the bottom of this column--and like CEN, there's absolutely no charge. What we do, we do for you.)