Lives On (on CD-ROM)

One of the very first big topics covered on the Scratchpad was my investigation into the old, an indie music distribution service that about marks the 1999-2001 period of the internet like little else. The advertisements, the site layouts, the name, and its eventual demise through acquisitions all speak to a universal truth about the pyrite rush of the dot-com boom: it was loud, flashy, promising, and only weirdos like me remember it.

In truth, I think I’ve painted an especially rosy picture of through these posts. might’ve been forward thinking to a fault, but it was still a dot-com company looking for a consistent source of revenue. This is what ate nearly all of the dot-coms: bright ideas like music distribution services, voice chat apps, and major technological revelations, with the whole “make money” part left for sometime down the road. Something something growth, something something venture capital.

This is the first part of a fascinating look into as much of the site in action, ads and all, as we’re ever gonna get. In the very first post, I mentioned that the library was lost when CNET shuttered the service. This is still true, but in the most ironic of places, survives in part.

Those MP3s folks were downloading back then? They live on, having survived the CNET nuke, on two CD-ROMs you can find on the Internet Archive. hocking an I-Jam MP3 player to me

CD-ROM: the savior of the early internet

It seems highly ironic that the distribution medium every dumb hacky talking head in the music industry says the internet’s replaced is actually a major way the early internet got preserved, but it’s true. Into the 2000s, for folks with internet speeds stuck in the two-digit kilobit range, companies offered (and in some cases specialized in) CD-ROM collections of shareware, game mods, patches and updates for paid software, paid software itself, and very occasionally, entire websites.

These promo discs come from that tradition. At long last, through these, we’re able to sample the music of itself, as it was heard on I’ll also be able to get a nice sample of the MP3 encoders folks were using in the late 90s to make their music available, and we’ll take in the sights of archival tour footage, advertisements for fellow dot-com hopefuls, and a whole lot of trailers for video games.

Now, to be clear, this undertaking is so large, I’m having to split it into two posts. I’m dumping the smaller one on you tonight because it was already done at the time of the split and because I think it’s a nice sampling of what’s to come. The second disc is pretty meaty and I braved it so you don’t have to.

The final, belated chapter of the saga–let’s dig in.

Installation blues

It was not easy to get these discs going. I got images of both discs from the Internet Archive, one of them a bin+cue and one of them an mds+mdf. Would you believe that none of my normal methods for mounting these disc images would do the trick? VirtualBox wouldn’t take them. WinCDEmu, which does support both bin+cue and mds+mdf, said both were corrupt. On both Windows XP and 10.

For the latter, I ended up grabbing an old copy of Daemon Tools Lite, a titanic piece of shit filled with offers for toolbars and things you have to be careful not to install, for the mds+mdf image. That worked.

For the bin+cue: I had to burn a CD-R. Yep. The image wasn’t toast. Just nothing aside from burning a disc got it to run. If you’re gonna run them yourself, I’d highly recommend you save yourself the trouble and just burn these images to disc yourself.

Once you do that, they do run on Windows 10, but for authenticity, I explored both discs and got these screenshots using the eMachines Box. That said, even on XP, some of the offered software won’t install correctly. You’ll need them if you want to watch the videos through the Macromedia Director players, but if you peek through the discs with Windows Explorer, you’ll find all the MP3s and videos in the root of the disc, the latter in generic MPEG-1 format files. You can play these in just about any standalone media player.

Enter The Music and Technology Tour

The Music and Technology Tour CD

I actually don’t know what either of these discs were released for. As its name would imply, the Music and Technology Tour was half about showing off bands and half about the latest and greatest in dot-com tech and gaming to date. The “tour” part of the name is literal–there are live videos on this CD, but where they were filmed and for who is never explained in the program material.

All the window dressing

Right from the get-go, even though the disc uses a pretty standard Macromedia Director autorun application, it still wants you to install a helper program in Pixelon to play the videos, which wouldn’t install on XP.

Install Pixelon! And watch as it doesn't work!
Seriously, the Pixelon player would simply crash on install on XP. I can only assume it didn’t expect to be run on anything newer than 98.

Pixelon is a rather infamous bit player in dot-com history, promising “television quality” video on CD or over the internet, and people later found out it didn’t really do that and the founder was in fact a convicted white collar felon living out of his car. Pixelon went kaput rather violently not long after this disc was released.

Special (defunct) offers featured on the Music and Technology Tour CD

Aside from Pixelon, a lot of’s attempted revenue was generated through sponsor spots for MP3 players and various bits of millennium junk hocked by other dot-coms, and this disc has it all. Firetalk! A free voice chat over the internet! Stop PC problems before they happen with Aveo Inc.’s Attune Service! Need a job? Fire your resume right into a recruiter’s eyeballs with! Get your .com domain name with It’s like a gigantic graveyard of Archivisms, all throughout the CD.

How’s the music?

Getting onto the tunes, the MP3s are split up into four sections, West Coast, Central U.S., East Coast, and Europe (or more accurately, the UK). These songs skew very heavily on the underground rock brewing throughout the country. I caught hits of everything from the sensitive singer-songwriter types who’d be soundtracking Smallville in the not-so-distant future to that distinctly late 90’s aggro rock when Staind was just getting big and everyone wanted in on it.

I consider it something of a wasted opportunity, on this disc more than the second, but really on both. I get that probably skewed rather young, and young people tend to like more extreme variants of music, but served all genres, from acid jazz to spoken word to Celtic music and salsa, so to hear things skew so far towards the mainstream rock end of things makes perfect sense, but is a bit of a shame. I would’ve loved to been thrown some curveballs, but nah, hope you like nu metal.

The Music and Technology Tour music categories

If you look up into the screenshot, you might notice a group called Kill Hannah under Central, and yeah, it’s indeed that Kill Hannah. That’s the funny thing about these indie samplers, occasionally they manage to feature a group before they became successful. By 2004 or so, they’d signed to Atlantic Records and toured with everyone from Chevelle to AFI to Mindless Self Indulgence, but here, it was mostly one guy recording demos by himself, and “Sick Boy” sounds a lot like it. It did not hold my interest.

Let’s talk about some of what did hold my interest though! Here are some cool, or at least interesting, tracks from this disc. Fair warning, I’m withholding one of my favorites for the video section later on.

Justin Clayton – “Drag”

Ah, the very first song you hear if you go in order. Honestly, it’s grown on me since I first heard it. I thought it was mostly just pretty but nothing special semi-acoustic radio rock, but then it stuck on my mind after writing this post and now I like it a lot. I see Devon listening to this one sometimes too.

Justin was, for a time, the right-hand guitarist for Julian Lennon–y’know, John’s son? (The son he had with the woman he beat and then abandoned for Yoko.) I’m surprised he’s gone so quiet since Limb came out. Seems like there was a lot there to build on.

Bender – “Fresh Daddy”

This track absolutely defied me not to laugh at it. Chunky nu-metal guitars with this dweeb doing an impression of Aaron Lewis doing an impression of Layne Staley (telling you, Staind was huge in 1999) over top them, giving way to these falsettos going “fresh daddy” in the choruses–yet it’s kinda awesome? I kinda like it? What the fuck?

Bender‘s biggest brush with success was having two songs featured in ATV Offroad Fury and having the album “Fresh Daddy” comes off of, Jehovah’s Hitlist, released by TVT, a label Nine Inch Nails was once on. By 2005, they were defunct. I was rather amused to find this absolutely glowing retrospective from Alternative Nation, a self-indulgent piece written by the site owner himself, despite all accounts pointing to Bender being not all that special in the world of rock. Even the site’s regular readers were perplexed by it.

Genaside II – “The Genaside Will Not Be Televised”

The few truly electronic tracks were all stashed in the East Coast section, and this is probably the most out there song on the entire disc. It’s not really the type of thing I’d expect to hear on a music sampler–it’s this desolate, melodyless soundscape with this British woman talking like she’s in a science fiction movie on top of it. The revolution will not be televised, she repeats on end.

I have zero clue why these guys aren’t in the Europe section; the little I can find on them confirms they came from the UK and were active in the drum’n’bass scene. Genaside II lasted from 1990 to 2002.

Jude – “Love Letters”

And one more acoustic cut. I really like this one. Warm, slightly accented voice, full-bodied acoustic guitar, nice falsetto, nice rolling lyrics. Perhaps we should just pretend this was all was after all.

This one tripped me up when I tried to find it. The artist name tagged in the MP3 is “Jude_LA”. That’s actually Jude Christodal from L.A. (makes sense, he was in the West Coast section) Jude’s probably had the most long-lasting success of the artists here, having his songs featured in popular TV network shows like House and The O.C. He’s still active in music, his last EP having been released in 2017.

The Music and Technology Tour music player

How about those videos?

This disc, I guess to make up for the relative lack of music (the second disc has 100 MP3s in total), comes with a ton of videos. You get two trailers for video games (yes, really), and a bunch of professionally-shot footage of the bands featured on this disc performing live somewhere or other.

Of the trailers, Konami’s Hybrid Heaven (for the N64) is more entertaining, so it’s the one I’m embedding here. It’s this long-forgotten hybrid adventure-fighting-RPG; the trailer is an overzealous TV spot featuring a Granny kicking the shit out of a purse snatcher in a subway station (the video is even called Granny.MPG!). Eidos’ Omikron: The Nomad Soul (for Windows and Dreamcast) makes for the less interesting watch, even if it heavily features the voice, music, and image of David Bowie, who lent his likeness to the game.

Of course, what does any of this have to do with Well, what does Firetalk have to do with music? What do free domain names have to do with MP3s? The answer is that these startups were all poor, and whoever would toss them some money in exchange for shilling their work got the gig. As said in the intro, this was a common issue with dot-coms of the time. They’d spring up with a unique idea with no way to monetize it, or the hopes that advertising would cover the bill (it never did).

The tour footage is all good. Some of it’s rougher than the others, but on the whole, it’s various artists from the disc playing either their featured song or another one from their repertoire, often acoustic. Nice to have faces and fairly clear (if small) video footage to go with the music. That said, where the fuck are these bands performing? All of the performances are on medium-large indoor stages (perhaps the same one each time!) with crowd sizes that absolutely do not justify the size of the venue. It’s kinda comical.

If I had to pick out a few notable ones, I think Fono (whom I neglected to mention in the music section, but their featured song “Collide” has proven sticky and I’ve listened to it like 15 times today) sounds as good live as they do on record, so I’m embedding that one. Justin Clayton turns in a slightly weaker version of “Drag”, and Hardknox digs in with distorted everything–girl vocals, fuzzy bass, pummeling drum machines. It’s so confrontational, it’s not even a full song like the rest.

I’ve uploaded all the interesting videos to my marf’s Media Archive channel for ease of watching. I’ve also uploaded all the MP3s on this disc in the “Old MP3 Collection”, so you don’t have to go through the trouble of installed Demon Tools [sic] to listen to them if you don’t want to.

Sorry to bring this to a rather abrupt end, but I’d rather save my big sendoff to and all the encoding statistics for the second part, when we’ll dig into the 100 EXPLOSIVE MP3s they give you to launch your collection on the second disc.

In short, if I had to recommend someone dig through one of these discs, it’d probably be this one. Not to say the other isn’t full of merit, it is! But MaTT is easier to get running and the presentation I think is slightly better, even if the musical variety is a bit lacking. In a way, though, that’s kind of a blessing; 100 MP3s is a lot of music, and my brain was leaking out of my ears by the time I got done sorting through it.

Anyway, more Fono? more Fono.

“Collide” by Fono

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