Pearl Jam: 'Back' To The Future
Pearl Jam: 'Back' To The Future

Releasing the album simply through Pearl Jam's Ten Club fan organization was out of the question, according to Curtis and Anthony, simply because of logistics. Target ultimately got the nod because, Anthony says, "in our discussions with the big-box retailers, they were really the only one that understood the band's philosophy and the need to take care of the Ten Club and the indies and hit other distribution platforms."

Curtis concurs. "I got a call from someone at Best Buy after the Target deal was announced, saying, 'Why did we not get this?' " he says. "And it was because they would not even entertain the thought of taking care of these other platforms."

Curtis also balked at the waste involved in having to create different versions of "Backspacer" for various partners, a common requirement of retail exclusives. Instead, the album is encoded with Sony DADC's eBridge technology, which allows purchasers to unlock extra content when they put the disc in their computers.

The Target discs will link to a virtual "vault" of 11 concerts spanning Pearl Jam's career, from which fans can choose two. The band will also create an organic cotton T-shirt to be sold at Target, with proceeds earmarked for the hunger relief charity Feeding America. And in September, a Cameron Crowe-directed TV ad will air featuring footage shot during a private performance at Seattle's Showbox in late May.

For Vedder, an avowed vinyl junkie who still savors memories of buying Jackson 5 records as a preteen in Chicago, Target isn't exactly his preferred music purchasing environment. "Maybe it will change, but I'm not going to find the Headcoatees at a Target," he says, invoking the obscure British band with a hearty laugh. "But if they only have 300 records at Target, and you can be one of them, and that's how people are going to hear your music, you have to think about that."

That's not the only thing Vedder is thinking about, either. While acts like AC/DC and Aerosmith were winning new fans with branded versions of "Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero," respectively, Pearl Jam was sitting on the videogame sidelines. The band finally took the plunge this spring when it made all of the songs from "Ten" available for download on "Rock Band" the same day the reissue hit stores. Curtis declined to discuss sales, but sources at MTV say the "Ten" songs have generated more than 850,000 downloads.

"Backspacer" will also be available on "Rock Band" the day it comes out, and Target has an exclusive on an edition of the album featuring access to download its songs for "Rock Band" on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. It's a precursor to a dedicated Pearl Jam game that could hit stores in 2010. Although MTV wouldn't confirm details, fan input is already being solicited on PearlJam.com to determine which live versions of songs from the band's catalog will be included.