Sonicnet.com, Bowie Garner Top Online Music Awards

Sonicnet named Best Overall Site for third time in five years; Bowie takes Best Artist Web Site.

NEW YORK — Sonicnet.com was named Best Overall Site for the third time in five years, and David Bowie was given an Online Pioneer award Monday night at the Yahoo! Internet Life Online Music Awards.

Singer/songwriter Aimee Mann's Bachelor No. 2, which was available on the Internet before it was released to stores this spring, was named Best Internet Only Album during the ceremony at Studio 54 in Manhattan.

Live365.com, Net4music.com, MP3.com and Wall of Sound were the other nominees for Best Overall Site.

Bowie was the night's star. The dapper rock icon's BowieNet was named Best Artist Web Site, and he belted out versions of "Wild Is the Wind" (from his 1976 album Station to Station) and "Life on Mars?" (RealAudio excerpt) (from '71's Hunky Dory) accompanied by pianist Mike Garson. The Internet efforts for which he was honored include the release in downloadable form last year of his album ... hours and his plans for an online bank.

He made light of his return to Studio 54, once a notorious disco and now a Broadway theater. "It's the first time I've seen this place in a vertical position," he said upon accepting his award for the Web site.

Mann, Alanis Morissette and Isaac Hayes also performed.

Bowie accepted his awards in style — he started the night in an immaculately tailored black suit and changed into an equally dashing gray one by night's end.

A Promotional Parade

The event, which organizers said attracted twice as many people as last year, was a celebrity affair, attracting models and actors as well as musicians. Staples of the New York party scene, including actress Sandra Bernhard, fashion designer Betsey Johnson, do-it-yourself queen Martha Stewart and Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, were among the guests.

Because this was a dot-com night, folks came ready to promote. Public Enemy's Chuck D talked up his Rapstation.com, an online hip-hop radio station, to reporters near the theater entrance. Hayes wore a T-shirt displaying a photo of himself. Simmons made sure the audience could see the band of his underwear, which sported the logo for Phat Farm, his clothing business.

It was a turnout that underscored the growing importance of the Internet to the music industry and to popular culture. Mann, in accepting her award, credited the Web for saving her career.

"God bless the Internet, because it's the only way an independent artist like me can make money," she said. Mann struggled for years to release an album on various major labels before releasing Bachelor No. 2 on Superego Records in May.

Mann performed the album cut "Red Vines" and "Wise Up" (RealAudio excerpt) from last year's soundtrack to Magnolia.

Celebrating The Underdogs

It was also a night for online music companies to bask in the glow of victory. Jonathan Cohen, editor of Billboard Online, called his organization "the underdog" after it won Best News Site. A representative for top U.S. electronic-music label Astralwerks laughed at the joys of creating a site on a 3-year-old Macintosh when the company won Best Label Site.

Pasadena, Calif., pop group Red Delicious won the award for Best Unsigned Band Online, and singer Sara Wallace let the audience know exactly what her hopes were.

"God willing, we won't be unsigned for long," she said.

One big player, the newly re-christened Prince, drew the night's biggest laugh. His single "One Song" won for Best Internet Only Single, but the absent star made sure no one missed him, sending a videotaped acceptance in his stead. Singing into a mic in classic Prince falsetto, with his face in profile at his Paisley Park studio, it was unclear whether the tape was real or a parody. When he sang, "I only know two chords," the crowd chuckled; when he turned his head to reveal his true self, it erupted.

(This story was updated at 1:49 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 25.)