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Classical music newsgroups and mailing lists

The internet is breathtakingly vast. The world of web pages, search engines and "surfing" is just one facet of the net, and we notice this vastness in the number, range and quality of sites and in the quantity of information available. There exist other, less publicised areas of the internet, however - ftp, telnet, gopher, IRC and - the subjects of this article - newsgroups (usenet) and mailing lists.

Usenet is a collection of tens of thousands of electronic newsgroups. Each group is an electronic bulletin board for a worldwide cross-section of the community with a specific interest. Read the messages posted at for example, and you should see only messages relating to classical music. Post or send a message to the group, and it will appear as a message on all the servers around the world which take that newsgroup.

How to access newsgroups

Anyone can post a message to a newsgroup. In the early days when only the academic community used the internet, this was rarely a problem. Now that the public has access to the internet, there is a great deal of mis-use. Repeated posting of messages unrelated to the subject of the newsgroup - usually concerning "get rich quick" schemes, pornography or (increasingly) commercial advertising - is called spamming.

A related problem has been the size and quantity of postings to newsgroups. As the on-line community grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for the internet's computers to make every message from every newsgroup available on every computer. Local internet service providers have (typically) cut back, restricting access to certain newsgroups or removing each message after only a few days.

These trends, and the growing need for specialization, are largely responsible for driving the real usenet communities "underground", to private mailing lists, where much of the real community spirit now thrives. Private mailing lists are simply e-mail messages sent to more than one person at once. Some - usually the smaller lists - are operated informally, with messages sent out by a real person, but most larger lists are run automatically by computer programs.

Using classical music mailing lists

  • Jason Greshes maintains the Classical Music Email List Directory at which lists many of the larger and better known classical lists, complete with information about subscribing and a helpful section about how to behave once you've joined a list!

  • Some mailing lists publish their archives on-line. Read these archives before joining to check that the content is to your liking.

  • No special software is needed to join a mailing list - you only need to be able to send and receive e-mails.

  • Be prepared to receive many tens and sometimes hundreds of messages each day from your chosen newsgroup.

  • Use an advanced mail reader (such as Pegasus or Eudora) which allows automatic sorting of your e-mail into different mailboxes. Set the software to receive mailing list messages in a separate mailbox. The arrival of large quantities of list mail will then disrupt you less!