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Sputnikmusic was founded five and a half years ago – so long ago that the vast majority of people who posted in 2005 are no longer around.  This multi-part feature is for those of you who have an interest in the site’s history but weren’t around in its younger days.  You’ll find that, despite popular opinion, the professionalism vs. userbase/more features vs. more journalistic integrity debate has been raging for five years now.

The Early Days

Before there was Sputnikmusic, there was MXtabs.  Started way back in 1999 by Jeremy Ferwerda, MXtabs was one of the foremost music tablature sites on the Internet.  Over the course of six years, thousands of guitar, bass, and drum tabs were added to the MXtabs database, all created and submitted by users of the site.  In addition to tabs, the site also had a flourishing forum section.  Within that section was a subforum for music reviews, where music lovers and aspiring writers could submit reviews for their favorite albums.  That forum was the fetus from which Sputnikmusic would grow into a screaming toddler, which would grow into a moody pre-teen, which would grow into a pimply teenager, which would grow into a ???.

In 2005, the MPA (Music Publishers’ Association) realized that they could make a bunch of money by suing tab sites, presumably because the president of the company still had some negative feelings about being a man named Lauren Keiser.  In 2006, the company released a statement in which they professed that they would be willing to work with sites who hosted only MPA approved, authorized tabs for which the songwriters would receive royalties.  Faced with the prospect of a world where the only guitar tablature available would be from bands like Nickelback and The Eagles, the Internet tab community made their overwhelming negative response heard.  Rather than waiting to be slapped with a cease-and-desist order, Jeremy Ferwerda decided to shut down MXtabs of his own volition, while a site run by Communists is still up and running to this day.  A few years back, MXtabs reopened in a new form under new ownership, and it is now a laughable tab site that nobody uses because the MPA stole its balls.

But before all of that happened, the music review subforum had grown large enough to warrant its own separate website, so on January 14, 2005, he started Sputnikmusic, labelled as a sister site of MXtabs that was “an online community for people who are obsessed with music,” where you could “rate your music, write your own music reviews, discuss albums, and create a musical profile.”  All of the existing reviews from the MX subforum were ported over to the review site, many of which still exist today.  Sputnikmusic retained the integrity of the user-centric review subforum while taking advantage of the larger, more convenient website format.  Reviews were no longer simple threads in a forum.  There were separate pages for every band, and users slowly but surely started filling the Sputnik database with band discographies and reviews for as many albums as they could, even going so far as to undertake a massive project to review every single entry on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of all Time list.

sputnikmusic.com, circa February 2005

Early site features included a spot on the front page for a featured album review, a list of “top reviewers” at the bottom of the front page, and separate pages for a few different genres.  It was a spartan skeleton of a site, but it was established early enough in the game to have room to grow into a legitimate source of music criticism (more on that later).  The site’s look changed gradually over time both in design and features.  A section for recent comments was quickly added, as was an expanded section for featured albums and a chart that listed the top albums of the week.  The top reviewers list was based on the approval rating of the users, calculated from the number of “yes” and “no” votes their reviews received in answer to the question, “Was this review well-written?”  However, by November of 2005, the list was no longer on the front page, although individual approval ratings could still be found in user profiles.

Yes, by the end of 2005, Sputnikmusic had already started to do away with its more banal features and started to move toward a more professional atmosphere, a move that caused contention right from the start and continues to do so today…

A more streamlined look for Sputnik, circa Christmas Day 2005





mynameischan
06.27.10
higuys

Yazz_Flute
06.27.10
FIRST

SeaAnemone
06.27.10
omg

theacademy
06.27.10
fourt

bailar11
06.27.10
cinco'th

Yazz_Flute
06.27.10
Good read though, i'm looking forward to more.

Electric City
06.27.10
dude i made top 15

and then they got rid of the top 15 on the front page :(

theacademy
06.27.10
you forgot the most important part: that sputnik launched at cornell

Bitchfork
06.27.10
I like the 2005 website designs better than the ones we have now.

NOTINTHEFACE
06.27.10
Oh wow. Nostalgia. I remember those days of innocently listening to Coldplay while I wondered what all these metal albums everyone was talking about sounded like. Thank you, Sputnik.

tombits
06.27.10
Interesting Chan, I like it.

bloc
06.27.10
Damn I remember this look. Every time I finished looking for Metallica tabs or whatever I would come here to look around.

Athom
06.27.10
holy shit, i remember that layout! bringing back the memories itt.

tinkrbel
06.27.10
"still had some negative feelings about being a man named Lauren Keiser"

lol!

Hyperion1001
06.27.10
I found this site so many years ago by using Mxtabs. I lurked forever until i got my e-peen well rounded enough to make an account. Man that was a long time ago.

Hyperion1001
06.27.10
Also, kind of funny that you refer to ultimateguitar.com as a communist run site when this is called Sputnik music. Just sayin'.

Ghostechoes
06.27.10
I remember MXtabs, I submitted a guitar tab that no one liked in 2001 for Incubus' New Skin. Also, I remember the site having some feature about Lostprophets; the reason I listened to TFSOP.

Good read.

inb4 stfu Echoes, we don't give a sh*t.

Tyler
06.27.10
I ran into Neurotoxin last week, and if you weren't around for his days on the forums you missed out. His battles with Dargon were the stuff of legends.

tinkrbel
06.27.10
"Also, kind of funny that you refer to ultimateguitar.com as a communist run site when this is called Sputnik music"

lol! hadnt thought of that tbh

Willie
06.27.10
Awesome blog. I was always kind of curious about how this site started (since the staff refer back to those days).

Asiatic667
06.27.10
Now sputnik is pretty much a troll hole

Tyler
06.27.10
pre-review site days were fun

Douglas
06.27.10
i remember that shit, back when i was user: ridethelightning_9 and had no idea about music.

Lions
06.27.10
yeah I remember the mxTabs days. I'd been lurking around here for years until I finally made an account.

Tits McGee
06.27.10
ah, i used to lurk hardcore in these days

Emin
06.27.10
"this should be an interesting series. i see that the old site didn't have banners for "'BUTT towels'"

seriously the gayest shit I've ever seen

ant4tbc
06.27.10
whoa dude.

i first discovered this site in 2006 after googling a blood brothers' crimes review...things sure have changed since then.

TheSpirit
06.27.10
that's crazy

Zizzer
06.27.10
Haha! Butt towells...

Old home page looks spiffy

Iluvatar
06.27.10
i remember i think i found this site in august of 2004, looking up stuff on coheed out of boredom. if only i had fucking known i wouldnt have googled that name that day.

megadeth101
06.27.10
This is really cool. I joined 06 HA IM AWESOME NOW.

Tunnelvision
06.27.10
mxtabs was really cool. I remember this site being shut down for awhile as well. I have been reading reviews and lurking for 4 years :O

fromtheinside
06.27.10
that second photo looks familiar.

Tyler
06.27.10
fyi the RS Top 500 thing was from the forums and ported over, it started at least a year before this site did

SymbolicActs
06.27.10
Shit, I remember going to MX back in the day when I first started playing guitar, after an older friend showed me some Master of Puppets stuff. That was almost 6 years ago.

Eclectic
06.27.10
Good read, it makes me feel ashamed to have only joined in 2009

Ah, if only I hadn't been into Theory of a Deadman and hadn't scoured the internet for hours for anything related to them

SymbolicActs
06.27.10
Well don't feel too bad Eclectic. I really only started coming to this site sometime after MX ceased. I've been a lurker here for awhile and figured I should start contributing something to this site after all this time.

plane
06.27.10
It's weird to think that I came to Sputnik only a year after it was founded. The camaraderie from the forums made it seem like I had missed out on ages. The golden age of Sputnik man, that should be now. What happened!

Captain North
06.27.10
I remember MX, didn't join then, but occasionally visited.

Meatplow
06.27.10
glad someone was keeping tabs on this actually

AtavanHalen
06.27.10
A great write-up, really keen to see the screen shots of the older sites.

In spite of being an outsider pretty much since I started here, I still love this place more than most things in life.

TheyTookOurJobs
06.27.10
Cant wait for the next part.

Skimaskcheck
06.27.10
haha awesome, lol'd at the UG reference

Jim
06.27.10
looking forward to the rest of this feature. i guess i jumped on board pretty early in the sputnik journey at mid '05.

i much preferred the older layouts for some reason. the darker tones were easier on the eyes.

Lucid
06.27.10
The first review I ever read was Nick Greer's Colors review back in 2007. Got to the site from a google search.

Iai
06.27.10
No mention of the greatest MXer of all time, our very own Bartender?

Iai
06.27.10
Oh wait, I just saw the link.

I used to be #2 on that list of top reviewers. br3ad_man was always #1.

ThePalaceOfWisdom
06.27.10
Bartender didn't have shit on SubtleDagger.

StrizzMatik
06.27.10
Been here since MxTabs. Fuck alla yall.

ZoidbergQuestion
06.27.10
Found this site two years ago while I was searching for System of a Down reviews.

2muchket!
06.27.10
I remember a thread about the sputnik awards show and thinking it was really really really really really gay

Transient
06.27.10
Med57 > all. Except maybe RobertCrumb. His stories in that thread that you used to get forwarded to when you tried to edit comments in news articles were hilarious.

KILL
06.27.10
i miss the good old mx tabs

Slipping Away
06.27.10
i like the blue sputnik better

EVedder27
06.27.10
what kill said. ultimate-guitar is just not the same

Tyler
06.27.10
Lewis, the forums were founded as part of MXTabs in the early 2000s so I think you misread.

Also, noobs, Bartender > All. Especially SubtleDagger.

Tulannical
06.27.10
wish i had been here for the early days
good article chan

joshuatree
06.27.10
this is awesome. way before my time but cool.

cfbassist
06.27.10
wow, nostalgia, i remember when mxtabs shut down and i was like "wtf is sputnik?"

and for some reason i kept coming

R6Rider
06.27.10
How I miss MXtabs.

Always liked it better than Sputnik.

Thanks for the needed history lesson Chan.

2muchket!
06.27.10
Do people actually refer to this site and forums as 'sputnik'.

It'll always be MX to me.

coneren
06.27.10
This brings back some memories

EVedder27
06.27.10
I wish I used my account years ago rather than starting a year ago

Meatplow
06.27.10
MX has its own forums now

http://talk.mxtabs.net/

Nagrarok
06.27.10
Oh if only I had been around back in the day.

Klekticist
06.27.10
really cool article. didn't know a lot of this stuff. relevantly new here. year and half, i believe.

cfbassist
06.27.10
ahahah wow, i just found one of my old tabs, i wonder if i would think it's right if i tried it today...

AnotherBrick
06.27.10
totally forgot about that old layout

Urinetrouble
06.27.10
lurking for 2-3 years now. didnt make an account until around December i believe

8bit
06.27.10
sputnik must have been alot cooler back then.

Dogget
06.27.10
Cool article, wish I'd been here earlier to see it develop

Disconnected
06.27.10
I thought that sputnik was older than that. Guess I was wrong.

Parallels
06.28.10
oh, so the sputnik name has nothin to do with Russia?

Lunarfall
06.28.10
That old sputnik design really brings the nostalgia.

Dylan620
06.28.10
Very interesting read. Looking forward to part 2.

kitsch
06.28.10
i remember the huge flame wars that caused the downfall of the top reviewer rankings

PanasonicYouth
06.28.10
i wish i was around back then
the old design looks hella cool
much better than the one now tbh

krazytom
06.28.10
MX tabs helped me so much with learning bass, that site was what got me as good as I am, and now I have sputnik to live my musical life for me via the internet

VonManHead
06.28.10
I remember always going to MX for tabs when i first started playing guitar, i also remember how pissed i was when it closed down, but i chose to click on that link to "sputnikmusic.com" on the page that said that MX had been shut down. I came to this site religiously for nearly five years before finally getting around to making an account.

wexenhex
06.28.10
yeah i remember MXtabs when i was younger. but hell, i never knew about the history of this site and MX tabs. i just started coming on here because its one of the best music review sites on the net, IMO

sEby146
06.28.10
I used to wiki old Atreyu shit. To the side there was a list of reviews and like in 2005 i saw some site rate it like 2/5 and im like fuck them russians Atreyus the shit!!! Then I opened my eyes and ironically I made an account here/russian site/abandoned shitty music. Too bad I never actually clicked em sputnik links. It would of been cool being there.

beatific
07.13.10
jeremy needs to bring back stars

facupm
04.30.14
sputnk looked so sexy in 2005

ArsMoriendi
06.20.14
Very blue.

Cygnatti
06.20.14
the old design looked sooooo cool

Green Baron
06.20.14
why no Part 4

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