Silicon Bitchin'

Alt-rockers don't die. They go online.

The site itself gives Alberti's claims some credence. Much busier than the minimalist-blue Cybrel site, yeyeye.com also is more dynamic than any other music site in Spanish. Many of the other Spanish-language sites popping up across the hemisphere -- and right here in Miami -- are either connected to a larger, general home in which music is a secondary consideration, or shamelessly promote musical product in a sappy tribute to sweet-faced celebrities. Alberti claims yeyeye.com has no interest other than the music itself. He points out that the site has eighteen journalists on staff, all of them formerly professional musicians, providing more comprehensive continental coverage than any other Spanish-language outlet. The upcoming concert guide is remarkably complete. Half of the reporting staff is located in Argentina, but even the criticism from those reporting on Chile, Mexico, the United States, and Europe shows delightful signs of that blend of arrogance and self-loathing for which Argentines are famous. A biting review of a Cranberries concert in Chile, for example, borrows its title from the Eighties novel Less Than Zero.

Just as Soda Stereo's music echoed global trends, the site covers all pop, with the emphasis falling on those genres not generally considered Latin in the United States. The featured "song of the day" gives a short history for monumental singles ranging from Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" to N.W.A.'s "Fuck the Police." A daily quiz asks questions about Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones. When the articles on the site treat Latin-American music, they tend to fall under the categories of rock, pop, and, overwhelmingly, electronica.

Not surprisingly electronica also makes up the bulk of the MP3s, or digitally compressed music files, posted in exchange for exposure. Having amassed his fortune first as a musician, Alberti says the site has no selection criteria other than requiring all music be original to guard against piracy. Consequently the content of the MP3s differs markedly from the big-name bands covered in yeyeye's text. A lot of it is not worth the 30 seconds or so it takes to download. But in a region of the world where musicians are often given short shrift by both recording companies and media, yeyeye.com at least provides a badly needed outlet. A frequently posted set of recommended MP3s also helps cut out the static.

Because the site is more focused than the U.S.-based monster MP3.com, yeyeye can provide more content and context on many of these bands, providing the materials for musical exchange in a region where most ears tend to be tuned to the North, rather than to their neighbors. The chat room promises a space to "talk" with people who "think" about music, in a kind of virtual concert "without the sweat." Theoretically it's exciting. The times I've checked in, however, I've found the usual boorish keg-party banter found in most chat rooms written in slang from Mexico, Colombia, and the Southern Cone. A lot more fun is the "games" section, where a selection of original music from featured bands has been fed into virtual mixing boards. Here even the most novice wannabe music wizard can sculpt new sounds with samples and loops.

Just how many hands can get on yeyeye.com's nifty site remains to be seen. Although at present there are only somewhere between seven million and nine million Internet users in Latin America, analysts predict the number will grow rapidly. Perhaps more important, many of the select few who do have access to the Net have greater impetus to seek sites like yeyeye.com than do the kids in the media-saturated United States. Alberti estimates 50 percent of yeyeye's audience logs on from Mexico, another 18 percent from the United States, and a large portion of the remaining 32 percent from Argentina and Chile. For many of these kids, picking up music and music news in i-time can mean the end of waiting for bands to play themselves out enough in the United States to begin scrounging around for south-of-the-border tours. As the cannibalization of Northern styles by Soda Stereo suggests, the kids in the South have a lot at stake in being the first in the barrio with the next big global thing.

Where the next big thing comes from might shift. Living in i-time Alberti feels no pressure to relocate his headquarters anywhere in el norte. "People have started to call Miami the Silicon Beach," he scoffs. "The only 'silicon beech' I've seen around here," he says with typical Argentine humor, playing on the homophone of "beach" and "bitch" when pronounced with a Spanish accent, "is a blonde on Ocean Drive."

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