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Monday, 18 September, 2000, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Smashing the music business
Offspring at MTV awards BBC
The Offspring are thanking fans with a free album
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Rock bands The Smashing Pumpkins and The Offspring are defying their record companies and releasing albums in the popular MP3 format.

Both bands are bypassing their record labels, claiming that MP3s are a better way to reach fans.

The move flies in the face of action by the bands' record companies, which are keen to stamp out the swapping of free MP3 files.

So far, the record companies have not taken any direct action against the renegade rock artists.

Pumpkins protest

The Smashing Pumpkins latest, and last, album, entitled Machina II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music, first appeared on the internet last week.

The album is made up of 25 tracks created as a limited edition set of vinyl recordings of some rare songs that the band distributed to friends and fans in the music business.

Those receiving a copy of the record were asked to distribute it as widely as possible.

Soon after, the tracks turned up in MP3 format on a fan site and then on other fan websites as well as Napster, Aimster and many other file-swapping sites. Some US radio stations have even been playing the tracks on air after grabbing them from the net.

The band reportedly took the action in a calculated snub to its record company Virgin, which did not want to print and distribute Machina II.

Billy Corgan, lead singer of The Smashing Pumpkins, has been critical of Virgin in the past for not giving the band the support he thought it deserved. Virgin has yet to reply to a request for comments.

Offering Offspring

The explanatory notes on the website where the music first appeared say fans can turn the MP3 files into CDs to spread them more widely, as long as they don't sell them for a profit.

Subsequently, many fans have burned the tracks on to CDs and are offering them for sale on the website and auction site eBay.

Earlier this year, The Smashing Pumpkins said they would disband by the end of 2000. This album is reportedly their final recording.

At the same time, indy rockers The Offspring are giving away their latest album, called Conspiracy Of One, via the net to thank fans for their support. The album will be made available through the group's official website.

Sony has reportedly asked The Offspring not to give the album away. So far, the band has refused.

Both Sony and Virgin are members of the Recording Industry Association of America, which is currently suing MP3 swapping site Napster.

Early download

Every fan downloading The Offspring's album will also be entered into a draw for a prize of $1m.

"This money came directly to us from our fans. We feel it would be cool to redirect it back to them," said Dexter Holland, lead singer of The Offspring. "We are trying to launch our album with promotions that are fan supportive rather than fan exploitative."

The band is hoping that sales of their next CD will be higher because fans have had early access to the music.

As an incentive to fans to buy the CD, the band is planning to bundle with the discs an electronic key that registers fans with the group's fan club and gives them access to special offers.

The Offspring were one of the first bands to embrace digital downloads. In 1998, they released a single called Pretty Fly (for a White Guy) in MP3 format long before the track was turned into a CD.

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See also:

08 Mar 00 | New Music Releases
CD Review: Smashing Pumpkins
03 Sep 00 | Entertainment
The Virgin Top 100 albums
10 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Prince backs 'exciting' Napster
06 Jun 00 | Entertainment
MP3: A novice's guide
12 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Britney label joins MP3 fray
01 Sep 00 | Sci/Tech
Ready, Aimster, Swap
27 Jul 00 | Business
Napster shut down
18 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Hacking for Napster
30 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Napster revival sparks online frenzy
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