CRITIQUE: Warner Bros. has taken an interesting turn in its Web offerings. It's taken disparate record labels featuring myriad artists and combined all their Web sites under one roof, Ear1.
Backed by an online ad campaign, the site seeks to promote artists from across Warner labels. The opening screen spotlights a random selection of artists and features a navigation structure that follows you throughout the site. For the time being, Warner isn't selling CDs here, but that would a logical next step -- perhaps by partnering with CDnow or N2K's Music Boulevard.
As you drill deeper and get into the individual band sites, you hit one of the problems of a network like this: inconsistent quality. Each artist's page has its own design, which isn't the wrong tack to take. But Ear1 would profit from some standards for content. If every part offered easy-to-find sound clips and bios, the whole site would benefit. Avalanche has provided a savvy back end that includes a one-stop tour date section and seamlessly integrates the rest of the content from the label's sites.
For Warner, the network concept is a solid one. Ear1 becomes an invaluable way to pump up the exposure of artists across all Warner labels by listing mainstays such as Paul Simon on the same page with lesser-known bands like Cafe Tacuba.
For advertisers -- such as current sponsor Discover Card -- that want to target a broad section of the music-buying populace, this is a fairly safe bet.