Medium4Music is betting that the fans who flock to see Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Ani DiFranco and the Nashville Bluegrass Band would eagerly log on to their computers to check out a video channel programmed exclusively with music and interviews from those artists.
That's the philosophy behind Medium4Music, a Web video site founded in 1999 by Jonathan Braun, a former journalist and CD-ROM company executive, and Graham Cannon, former director of communications and strategy for Time Inc. New Media.
"We keep hearing that the Internet is the wave of the future for folk music," said Saltwater Music singer/songwriter Del Suggs. "This kind of site makes it sound as though the future is really here. I think that's really cool."
Medium4Music specializes in niche video channels, with offerings catering to listeners of classical, jazz, house, lounge, rock, reggae, Latin music and even goth. Now the company has added channels dedicated to Americana and bluegrass.
The new stations give the site 17 channels, each of which offers a handful of videos.
"We're thrilled to launch the Internet's first streaming video channel dedicated to bluegrass and old-time music," said Dennis Oppenheimer, Medium4Music senior vice president of entertainment, after the April 28 debut of the bluegrass channel. "This music represents the past and future of much of the American music scene."
Except for the occasional Krauss video on CMT and the live performance shows "Austin City Limits" and "Sessions at West 54th," bluegrass, folk and Americana artists haven't found many outlets for their music on broadcast television. But many of these performers, including such stars on the Americana charts as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, do have videos available for programming.
Medium4Music is taking advantage of the circumstances.
Current clips on the Medium4Music bluegrass channel (www.medium4music.com/bluegrass) include Claire Lynch's "My Heart Is a Diamond" and Parton's "Train, Train."
On the Americana channel (www.medium4music.com/americana), viewers can check out Chris Whitley performing "Wild Country" (RealAudio excerpt), Harris singing "Calling My Children Home" and Joan Baez performing "No Mermaid" (RealAudio excerpt).
Another channel, Southern Rock, features Sonny Landreth's "Native Stepson."
Medium4Music also is planning to produce original content and interviews with artists as well as provide an outlet for seldom-seen videos.
Medium4Music programs are delivered in streaming video and require Microsoft's Media Player or RealNetwork's RealPlayer. This free software is available for download from every page on the site.
As with most Internet video transmissions, the higher bandwidth available, the better the quality of the image. Users may select lowband (28.8 or 56k dial-up connections), midband (ISDN or DSL) or highband (cable modem, DSL line or T1) transmissions.
Medium4Music is banking on industry projections showing that, by 2002, more than 13 million people will subscribe to broadband Internet service providers, which will allow them the best reception of Internet video transmission.
Today, more than 50 percent of U.S. professionals have a broadband connection at their desktop. At home the majority of people who will come online in the next 12 months will connect with a broadband link 25 percent of U.S. households online will access the Internet via a high-speed connection.
Folksinger Carolyn Hester, who first rose to fame in the folk revival of the 1960s, is delighted with the technological advances that have led to the development of Medium4Music's channels. "[Information about a show] used to be ... passed around by word of mouth and took weeks for people to [learn about], whereas now with the Internet, people all over the world get to look in immediately," Hester said.