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Sunday, March 29, 1998 Published at 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK


Massive Attack on the Net

The Wild Bunch is online before it goes on air

Massive Attack, the band that has been called "so hip it hurts", is pioneering again. But this time, it is not a new sound. It is a new way to sell its music.

The ultimate trip hop band has made the whole of its much-anticipated new album, Mezzanine, available online.

Net users can listen to all nine tracks in RealAudio plus watch the video to the first single, Teardrop.

Innovation is nothing new for Massive Attack. The band helped create the British dance genre labelled trip-hop, a combination of hip-hop beats, mellow grooves and sultry vocals.

Their trailblazing 1991 album, Blue Lines, set the pace for much of the non-techno British dance of the '90s, including that of Portishead and former Massive Attack member Tricky.

First stop: Mezzanine

Going for a song

[ image: All for free on the Net]
All for free on the Net
The force behind the Massive Attack's new Net savvy identity is its record label, Virgin Records.

Virgin is keen to promote its artists - and its sales - online. The strategy may stem from its own understanding of how the Internet works.

The Virgin Group is vigorously promoting Internet use in the United Kingdom through its Internet access provider Virgin Net.

Take Unbelievable Truth, a young band that has not even launched its first album. At its online music site, the Raft, Virgin is promoting the group by encouraging users to "get to know" band members.

In the band's "clickable sitting room," Net surfers can hear samples from the upcoming album, Almost Here, and find out what kind of art, literature and furniture the lads like best.

Companies like Virgin are also looking to new technologies that they hope will change the face of the music industry.

[ image: Massive Attack: making themselves heard]
Massive Attack: making themselves heard
Music producers and a host of Silicon Valley start-up companies are predicting that teenagers will soon sit at their computers, voraciously downloading the latest singles by the Spice Girls, Oasis and, of course, Massive Attack.

For about a pound a pop, they can burn or record their own CDs with only the songs they like and pop the discs into their stereos.

The companies also hope that online CD sales will follow in the footsteps of online book sales, one of the only financial successes on the Net to date. Like books, CDs have huge potential to be marketed online because the Internet makes it easy to search, sort and order - record stores need only stock what the customers want.

Despite the hype, promoting music on the Internet has yet to live up to expectation.

Although the Internet allows for an array of cool features - databases of sound clips, video clips and interactive information - online music sales so far make up only a minute fraction of the music industry's roughly $40bn (24bn) yearly sales.

Nevertheless Massive Attack is trying to make itself heard.

Virgin says that thanks to a unique Internet preview, word of Massive Attack's new album is spreading faster than a forest fire.

Even if that's too unbelievable to be true, you can still buy Mezzanine in a record store. It goes on sale April 13.

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