Mix and Match
By Gail Golderman & Bruce Connolly
CONTENT It can be easy to forget when any scrap of information about music and musicians was a precious commodity. Rock’s Backpages gives music fans and researchers access to some 32,000 articles, concert and album reviews, interviews, memoirs, and letters as well as more than 500 audio interviews.
Sources include magazines such as Crawdaddy, the first American magazine devoted to rock music criticism; Creem, dubbed “America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine;” Trouser Press, a rock and roll magazine which ran from 1974 to 1984; and Rolling Stone, among others. There are also British-based publications such as the popular weekly New Musical Express or NME; Melody Maker, published between 1926 and 2000; MOJO, focusing on classic rock, and its competitor Q.
Included are a handful of articles from the 1950s, almost 2,500 pieces from the 1960s, and more than 10,000 items from the 1970s. All material is available in full text. There is currently more archival than current content, but about 50 new documents are added each week.
USABILITY The clean and attractive homepage encourages users to jump right into the content, view the most recent additions to the library, listen to interviews, or explore material using Genre Quicklinks. Helpful links to the site content—Library, Free on RBP, Artists, Audio, Genres, Publications, and Writers—appear on the left side of the page. Prominently displayed in the center of the page is an invitation to enter the library.
Taking this route leads to search options and pull-down menus for artists, writers, associates, subjects or genres, and publications. Alternatively, one may browse the full A–Z listing for each of these indexes. The top ten articles of the day are displayed, along with freely available and newly added content. An advanced search lets users combine a term or phrase (entered in the search box) with a subject or musical genre, writer, or publication (using the pulldown menus). Results may be limited to a date range, type of piece (column, interview, live review, retrospective, etc.), and arranged by relevance or date.
Audio interviews may be selected via the format pull-down menu. We selected Krautrock from the genre list and received 126 hits, with an “artist” facet to the right of the list indicating that 37 dealt with German rock band Can and another 31 were on German band Kraftwerk. There is no specific indication that RBP supports Boolean searching or truncation, although we did see more inclusive results by placing an asterisk after keywords.
If there is a downside of Rock’s Backpages, it would be that is it easy to get distracted and meander through article after article. A search for “Chelsea Hotel” led to punk rocker Sid Vicious; and then to an article on the suicide of Vicious’s mother (who allegedly helped him overdose while celebrating his release from Riker’s Island); and then, via some untraceable path, to a review of Lana Del Rey’s 2014 album Ultraviolence.
PRICING The cost of Rock’s Backpages is based on FTE and institution type. All subscriptions offer unlimited simultaneous users and remote access. Prices start at $1,417 annually for academic libraries under 1,000 FTE and for public libraries serving fewer than 50,000. Consortia partners receive a 20 percent discount off the standard pricing; RBP also offers a Perpetual Access Purchase option. Personal subscriptions start at $90 for three months.
VERDICT A highly affordable product with unique content. “An essential acquisition for large public and academic libraries serving serious students of a wide range of music, from blues and country to jazz, reggae, and, of course, rock and roll,” read the review in LJ 4/1/14.
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