By Michael Niebuhr
Come October I've been making this site for a year and I'm nowhere near finished. There's so much I'd like to add. Now let me say right off the bat, that making this site is an activity that involves standing on the shoulders of giants. A big part of my history with Ryan Adams is listening to the various unreleased stuff and visiting the dedicated fan sites Answering Bell and Ryan Adams Archive (and others). Setlists and info about his whereabouts and releases wasn't easy to find elsewhere. No Facebook groups or Setlist.fm, and YouTube wasn't full of high quality videos. So the sites served the core information to of us fans.
These days a site like this is in competition with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even the man himself, who has had a steady website for many years now, primarily centered around a webshop. There's also lots of Ryan Adams lyrics, chords/tabs and setlists on big sites that cover every artist out there, and finally there's the Internet Archive that has 550+ different recordings of shows. And let's not forget ToBeYoung (the fan forum) and Faithless Street (the other fan forum).
Between all of this it's easy to disappear on Google, and Google is the way people find the site, right? Not really. The SEO (Search engine optimisation) is a big endeavour to undertake, and I'm just getting into it now. What I immediately discovered is that the site is basically invisible on Google. If you search for Ryan Adams it's not in the first 20 pages of search results (!) and if you search for 'comepickmeup' or 'ryan adams come pick me up' it's not in the first page of results. Hence my advertising for the site on Facebook groups, the forums and Twitter. If people don't know about CPMU and can't even google its existence, the future of the site is pretty dark right?
For a while it's been rough going visiting the site on a mobile phone. I've started doing mobile optimisation, and I think it's looking better. But how does it look on iPad? How does it look on Windows Phone? How does it look in Internet Explorer? Firefox? Chrome? Safari? On a 27" screen? These are things I have to (start to) keep an eye on, so users don't grow tired of the site, because it's frustrating to use. It also means looking at the size of the pages, size of the images, the time it takes to load a page, time it takes to do a "query" (searching for something, i.e. a show, a song, shows with a certain song performed, etc.). And it means continually returning to these areas and to see if something is broken.
Users on the site
Speaking of users, it would be great if it was possible to log in. That would allow the site to remember your preferences. That could be all the shows you've seen. All the recordings you own. All the chords/tabs you often return to. Or want to remember to learn to play. All the reviews, interviews and news you want to read later on a Reading List. It could be a way to review stuff or write on the blog here. It could be a way to do submissions of fan art, merchandise, cover versions, etc.
And there's lots of great fan art out there. From drawings to tattoos, to homemade paper dolls, cover versions, murals, pizza menus (!), songs about Ryan Adams (yeah, they exist) and what not. It would be great to have a little "museum" of this stuff to browse. Same goes for:
I often see people posting pictures or selfies of themselves in front of the PAX-AM neon sign. I call it PAX-AM Pilgrimages. I'd love to have a gallery of these photos. It's a fun thing that came out of nowhere and now is its own thing.
And what about Adams' own art? Remember the exhibition after The Cardinals? Remember the comic book talk and little bits here and there? Bet there's more. A gallery would be nice.
Former webmaster, taper and superman Joel Swaney has sent me a dump of the entire database of the previous Ryan Adams Archive site (and some Answering Bell and Archive Asylum). There's so much information that needs to be mapped to what's already on this site. What I look forward to the most, is being able to add the lineups for every group behind Ryan since the earliest days. There's so many people that's been in Whiskeytown or the early Ryan-bands and it would be great to be able to click around and see some info and statistics or how this all fits together. I'd also like to be able to click on Neal Casal or Mike Viola and see what they've contributed on, what shows they played at, and what their solo careers look like. That's gonna be great! But there's also info on sessions, early recordings. A treasure trove indeed.
Speaking of databases, there's a lot of info from Joel on every release up to about 2011. Info on what was released as an album, a promo, a limited edition, a 7", another 7", a double 7", a cd promo-single, and lots, lots more. As of now the discography on CPMU is pretty big, but eventually it will expand into a monster with 500+ or 1000+ different released items. 500 or 1000, I don't even know (yet). Until this happens Discogs.com is the best place to search. And because they're so good it's gonna be essential to make something better if this undertaking is gonna have any chance of being worthwhile.
Lyrics, Chords & Tabs
Someone wrote and asked me to include chords and tabs the other day. I've thought about it, but figured the info was readily available elsewhere. But it's in line with compiling everything in one place. So it makes sense. It's something I haven't looked into, but I will. Like lyrics I think it's best to embed them from another site, so that the info can be updated without having to re-upload the info to CPMU. Lyrics are embedded from Genius.com. I think it works well. They're not searchable as of right now, and the reason is that they're physically somewhere else than the CPMU database. Something to think about (in the future), and when selecting a strategy for Chords & Tabs.
One thing that CPMU can offer, better than most sites, are statistics. It's not taken much advantage of yet, but what song was played most on a tour, from a record, with a certain band, or never played, or not played in 5, 10, 15 years, these things are easy to display when every bit of information is in one database. But I need to make a public "statistics generator" where you can select the exact info you want. Most played in Denmark with Whiskeytown, or Never played in France could be examples of searches you could put togethet on-the-fly.
When all this is done it's gonna be important that you can share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or wherever you want to. Searches like mentioned above, show videos, reviews, albums, songs, whatever, it should have a dedicated share button beneath the info so it's easy to share that exact information and link straight back to it.
Facebook has its own rules and technology for sharing to your "feed" or groups, and I'm looking into how I can share specific pages with a photo/thumbnail, proper headline and the right link (so it won't all just show the front page on the link, as it does now). The other services, Twitter and Instagram, are easier, but that could change any day. It's something that needs to work and keep working, so it's an ongoing task.
And all the while I'm still doing...
I just introduced it last weekend and just the task of editing the 2016-info took me a long time. I can programmatically select and display every release, show and interview in the database and "populate" the timelines from 1991 to 2016 that way, but it needs some editing of the text, and there's a lot of other stuff to add (events, studio work, collaborations, Twitter feuds and fun stuff, Foggy, videos, commercials). It's gonna be awesome when it's done, that's for sure. But it's something I could finetune forever. Also the many fine details from Headley's and Menconi's books would be nice to add, as well as the session details from Joel Swaney's database.
And I'm still adding
With more than 200 cover versions on CPMU already, and info on what record they're from, by which artist, from what year, there's still another good chunk to add.
There's about 40 on the site. I've added the text as well as links to the sources, but there's so many more to find and add. I haven't decided if it's okay to display the interviews. I think I will in the cases where I have to scan physical copies, as no one's gonna be able to track down a copy in any near future. But is it okay to display an interview that's still up on Rolling Stone or SPIN's website? How many more interviews could there be? 100? 200? More? I know there are people out there with clippings. One day it will hopefully all be compiled. Same with the magazine covers of which there were a lot between 1997 and 2003...
If you've read this far, thank you, you're too kind. If you're the kind of fan who cares deeply about some detail in the Ryan Adams catalogue, his bands, a particular album, song or sound, or have an idea you'd like to spread in this community, let me know, and maybe a blog post about it would be something you'd like to do.
I myself need to look into making a backup functionality (so I won't have to do it manually). I need to make thumbnails for a lot of the photos on the site (so the pictures will load faster). The SEO needs work! I need to further redesign a lot of the pages. And I need a logo. Icons. I need feedback on all of the above and the design choices. I need to add hundreds of lyrics. I need more time ;-)
I keep doing this because I want to make a site that I'm proud of (as opposed to for instance starting another site on another topic). I wanna make a site people like and use. That's a reward in itself. A site that deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ryan Adams Archive or Answering Bell. I'll keep working on it. Wish me luck.