Taking off on the Web

Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2005

A few days before New Year's, state employee and local musician Jay Caputo launched the Web site Juneaumusic.com .

He hoped the site would gain a small following in Juneau's arts and entertainment scene, from which he could develop a core of contributors. Instead, it took off quickly, scoring 401 unique visitors in January, and 341 more in the first 2 1/2 weeks of February.

"I was pretty sure that the site was going to be popular, at least when people were checking it out initially," Caputo said. "I thought I'd throw it up there, tell a few people, get their feedback, work out the bugs, and then in March I'd really launch the site officially.

"But all of a sudden it's popular, and we have to keep up with it," he said.

The site now has 18 contributors and is updated every day. Caputo spends about four to 10 hours a day managing the project from his Douglas apartment.

He hopes to cover music, film, theater, dance, food, recreation and visual arts with articles, reviews, galleries and blogs.

As it's currently designed, the home page includes a calendar of events for the upcoming week and two rails, one on the left of local events (such as the Wearable Art Show) and one on the right of relevant items gleaned from the Web (such as the "Bad Album Cover of the Week" feature).

Ryan Stanley and the late Bill Kozlowski, guitarists in Peabody's Monster at the time, started their own Juneaumusic.com Web site in 2000. It was intended to be an online magazine and bulletin board, with calendars, chat rooms, downloadable music and classifieds.

The site lasted several months before dissolving. But Caputo was one of a handful of musicians who was intrigued by the project.

"I learned it would take a lot of effort up front to get the ball rolling, and that you had to get the right partners involved in the beginning," Caputo said. "You just couldn't rely on people to jump on board and help out. You had to really get a buzz going."

Caputo spent most of 2003 polishing his Web design skills. He'd put together a few pages as part of his job with the Department of Labor. Around May, he began pitching the idea to potential contributors.

"It was a slow process over six months of getting people's ideas and showing them what the site could be," Caputo said. "We tried to sign on all those folks who were doing stuff in town that was mostly arts and entertainment, like the Nickelodeon Theater and the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council."

"Those people all jumped in right away, and now that there's that going on, other people have seen the potential," he said. "More of the community is signing on, the everyday people who are not part of organizations. Those are the people who are going to be the heart and soul of the site from the community aspect."

The site's coverage of Perseverance Theatre's "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" included photos and video footage shot by Caputo on his digital camera. He hopes to include more audio and video features in the future and apply for grants to improve his equipment.

Sound engineer Albert McDonnell has a blog for the behind-the-scenes work he does at Skatebottom Sound and in the community. KTOO-FM has been posting a lot lately, even including a short audio sample for its piece on "The Search for Water and Life on Mars" lecture at Centennial Hall.

Local writer "Red Hat," a food columnist and local chef, has been one of the most active contributors. She wishes to remain anonymous on the site because she'll be critiquing local restaurants.

"One of the things I like about this site is it offers opportunities for people to get involved," she said. "I really feel that there are a lot of people in Juneau who are doing wonderful things and can use a forum where they can see what one another is doing and know what's going on," she said. "My hope is that people who are looking at all of the different blogs on Juneaumusic.com will start by reading stuff on their computer, and then go out and participate and make their own art.

A Juneau resident for the last 4 1/2 years, Red Hat has been writing mostly about food. Her recent posts include a recipe for "Brandied Cherry Pie;" and "Mysterious Red Hat Visits the Library!" a tribute to mystery author Paul Auster.

"I'm going to try and cover recipes and fun food things that are going on," she said. "It's all about eating here, rather than wishing you were some place else. In the future, we're going to talk about the availability of food, the foibles of relying on the barge in the winter, maybe get some good game recipes from friends who hunt."

Other partners include: Antonio Diaz and Heather Haugland's Juneau Salsa; Rainbow Foods; The Imperial; The Alaskan Bar; The Hangar on the Wharf and Hangar Ballroom; 911 Guitars; Collette Costa and The Tin Pan Alley; Silverbow Inn; Perseverance Theatre; The Gold Town Nickelodeon; Juneau Jazz & Classics; Juneau Arts and Humanities Council; The Friendly Planet.

Sitka novelist John Straley will also contribute, possibly as often as once a month. His first piece, a short story inspired by Japanese short fiction and referencing his work as a Southeast Alaska detective, will go up in early March.

Juneaumusic.com is looking for arts and entertainment- related contributors. Visit the site or contact contribution@Juneaumusic.com for more information.

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.

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