Some of the biggest names in music are contributing exclusive songs to RED(WIRE), a new digital music magazine launching on World AIDS Day (Dec. 1).
U2, Coldplay, the Killers, the Dixie Chicks, John Legend, R.E.M. and Bob Dylan are on board for the initiative, which is an outgrowth of the Bono-reared activist organization (RED). All proceeds from subscriptions will benefit HIV-infected people in Africa; MSN.com will host a kick-off party on Dec. 1.
For $5, users will receive a new issue of RED(WIRE) every Wednesday, featuring an exclusive song from a major artist, a song from an artist (RED) aims to showcase, a multimedia piece that could encompass video or photography and a look at how proceeds are directly benefiting Africans in need. The materials will be downloaded to a custom player and automatically loaded into iTunes.
Users can send two free issues to friends, and will be rewarded if they join RED(WIRE). "Artists are already saying, 'I want to give you a track for those people who brought friends in,'" (RED)WIRE founder Don MacKinnon tells Billboard.com. "That's the biggest idea: using social networking to actually change the world in a unique way."
U2's track was recorded just last Wednesday, while the Killers, Elton John and the Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant teamed up for the Christmas song "Joseph, Better You Than Me," which MacKinnon describes as "like a power ballad." This is the third year in a row the Killers have penned a holiday song and donated proceeds to (RED).
Meanwhile, John Legend's take on Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" finds him eschewing piano for a stripped-down arrangement with guitar, bass and backing vocalists, according to MacKinnon.
Also coming is the first new Dixie Chicks song since the group's Grammy sweep in 2007, "Lucky One," and Elvis Costello and the Police jamming on "Watching the Detectives" and "Walking From the Moon," taped during Costello's new Sundance Channel show "Spectacle." Additional (RED)WIRE offerings will be announced in the coming weeks.
MacKinnon is particularly enthused about the creative directions open to (RED)WIRE, especially with such high-profile artist participation.
"I had a meeting with Jay-Z, and he wants to talk about artists to be featured in that spotlight slot," he says. "Big artists may curate an issue. The whole goal was to create a creative platform. When somebody says, 'I do all this photography and I want to put it in as an extra,' That's when I go, this is going to be really cool."