It’s probably true that you can find anything on the web, someplace — but the undergrowth is getting thicker and harder to navigate as people catch on that the cost of offering goods online amounts to hardly anything.
My case in point involves my research instinct’s interest in having correct dates for music in my iTunes database. Whereas GraceNote and its rivals often return a date that reflects the year a CD or compilation was issued, I prefer to associate a selection with the year it was performed or released. So when I play Estill C. Ball’s performance of “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” I want to know when Alan Lomax recorded the song, not when Rounder re-released it. If I search for “Estill C. Ball”and “Poor Wayfaring Stranger,” though, I get an unceasing stream of sites that offer the CDs for sale. Throw in “Lomax” as a search term, and eliminate a couple of giveaway phrases from the constantly-reproduced sales copy, and the overwhelming preponderance of search results still amount to nothing more than a track listing.
The original Atlantic recording was evidently released in 1960, and Lomax travelled the south in 1959-60, so I’ll enter 1960 and be done with it — but it would be helpful to have a more robust filter to segregate commercial results from noncommercial information.