Online music videos--We rate the best and worst sites for watching videos on the Web

By David Kushner
Updated March 03, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Online music videos

Ever wonder why there’s pretty much only one place to watch Britney Spears shimmy her pom-poms? You’re not alone. A couple of months ago, reports circulated that the Justice Department was sniffing around to see if the M in MTV stood for ”monopoly.” The feds started snooping after the company ate up The Box, a competing channel from cable giant TCI, greatly narrowing the mainstream national outlets for music videos. According to Carole Robinson, a spokeswoman for MTV, the network is cooperating with the review and doesn’t expect the DOJ to find a violation of antitrust laws. Nevertheless, the best way to circumvent MTV’s overplayed playlist is online, where several sites offer on-demand videos and clips in Real and Windows Media formats. The unstable downloads often make for choppy viewing, but, like all things Net, the end of e-static is only a matter of time. The end of MTV’s reign — including online, where the music channel is already flexing its muscles and snapping up smaller fish — is another story. Here’s a look at the contenders.

Monopoly or not, MTV unquestionably offers the best streaming music videos on the Net. The interface is a breeze — just pull down the menu to find the artist you want to cue up. You’ll find all the wearily familiar videos from TRL, which, frankly, look a lot better on the tube. The real treat here is the archive of 15-plus years of obscure videos and guilty pleasures that MTV would never, ever air, even if Christina Aguilera were digitized into each clip. Any site that lets me watch the Pixies do ”Planet of Sound” gets props in my book. A

Launch is shaping up to be the David to MTV’s Goliath on the Web: This Santa Monica-based site has made some heavy deals recently to position itself as the Net’s most formidable music-video alternative. In January it acquired rights from Warner Music Group to netcast the company’s entire catalog of videos, from Madonna to R.E.M. Despite similar scores from EMI and Sony, the site is still weaker than its nemesis, but it could soon boast more than 10,000 varied selections. Even better: no Carson! B+

Got that burning yen to know what’s hot in Canada? Thought not. But if you’re hoping to catch the next Alanis (or, better yet, Triumph!), boot up the website for the Great White North’s national music-video network. In addition to the same kind of playlists you’ll find on MTV, this site spotlights up-and-coming Canadian artists, like pop chanteuse Chantal Kreviazuk. Unfortunately, a lot of the stuff you really want to view — say, obscure tracks by Nine Inch Nails — is available only in brief snippets. Too bad Trent doesn’t brood in French. C

Despite MTV’s purchasing SonicNet, this website still offers a truly alt-music video experience. Search for an artist by name, or browse through such niche genres as drum-and-bass and ska. Thanks to heavy participation from indie record labels, the choices lean toward Uberhip fare from rave faves like Fluke and indie poster boys Pavement. There’s also a sharp little online mixing board that lets you customize your own streaming playlist. The Flash media animations might stuff up your data pipe, but the songs here are worth the occasional crash. No wonder MTV snapped this site up — it’s proof that, someday, the Internet could kill the video star. A-