The Tangled Web
The Web's most intriguing music-related destinations. This week: Go-Kart Records, Jane's Addiction and Primus.REV IT UP: New York-based punk label Go-Kart Records will on Nov. 4 release an all-MP3 compilation. The two-disc set, which Go-Kart claims is one of the first of its kind to see commercial release, contains 300 songs from 150 artists, and will play in MP3/CD-hybrid players and computers. Dubbed "Go-Kart MP3000 Raceway," the disc will feature songs by punk heavyweights Anti-Flag, Bouncing Souls, Sick Of It All and Teen Idols, and to Go-Kart founder Greg Ross, it's a release format more labels ought to embrace. Too bad he thinks the industry isn't paying attention.
"The MP3s will play on any MP3 player, iPod, etc., and we have built a very cool interface that will work with almost any web browser," Ross wrote in an email interview with Billboard.com. "When you launch it, you will are able to see each band's bio, an image, and links to their Web site ... I would hope the industry is watching, but I doubt it."
Early retail response has been mixed on the two-disc set, which will sell for $10, Ross says. "Some have embraced this and are fully in support of it, others don't get it all," he says. "We have had to educate a lot of people about MP3s. It's very simple: if people come in and buy the comp, retail will love it."
Yet the MP3 compilation isn't the only way Go-Kart is suddenly finding itself in the news. Last week, Ross posted an open letter to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on his label's home page, lambasting the music industry's lobbying group for initiating lawsuits against individuals accused of using peer-to-peer file-trading services. To further his point, he posted free MP3 downloads of entire albums from fledging Go-Kart artists such as Amazombies, Guff, Capture The Flag and Daycare Swindlers.
"I went through our recent releases and decided which ones needed exposure and called the bands and asked what they thought," Ross says. "Some of the bands we did not include are pretty angry at us for not including them, so I guess I didn't do such a good job. We didn't choose some of the more established bands because in some cases they weren't active and also because I felt our point would be better made if we used bands that no one knew, and were able to help them.
"I think downloading is helpful when used in the right way," he continues. "Madonna used downloading to her advantage when she released a bunch of fake MP3s with her yelling at people for downloading them. She got a lot of press and people got to hear a sample of the songs. So it worked for her."
It also seems to be working for Go-Kart. In less than one week, more than 50,000 songs were downloaded, an impressive number for a group of relatively unknown artists. The stunt also provoked an attack on the site's servers, forcing the label to stop the free downloads for 24 hours.
Will all the attention translate to increased sales?
"It's too soon to tell," Ross says. "Our mail order has increased dramatically though, and all of the bands have seen much heavier traffic at their Web sites. I hope retail understands that what we are trying to do is expose people to new bands so that they will buy their records. Maybe not this one, but their next release, which will help them."
SEE JANE TOUR: Recently resurrected veteran modern rock act Jane's Addiction is finished with its summer tour, including headlining a rejuvenated Lollapalooza, but the band is now following in the steps of the Dandy Warhols by setting up a "virtual tour" of Web sites. As shown on the band's official Web site, Jane's has donated multimedia goodies to five different sites: iFilm, VH1.com, Askmen.com, Ign.com and the Web home of Jane magazine.
The iFilm site hosts four Jane's Addiction video clips, viewable in RealVideo, QuickTime and Windows Media: videos for the songs "Just Because" and "True Nature" (from the band's 2003 Capitol album "Strays") and exclusive live performance clips of "Stop" and "Hypersonic." Web magazine Askmen.com has live video of "Suffer Some" and "Ted, Just Admit It" from Los Angeles and Culver City, Calif., respectively. Ign.com features an extended biography/essay on the band's cultural impact, punctuated with live video of "To Match the Sun" and "Price I Pay."
VH1.com also offers fans the "Just Because" and "True Nature" clips, alongside a video interview and footage of both of those songs from a Lollapalooza date in Houston. Finally, Jane magazine's site hosts a Houston performance of the band's anthem "Jane Says" and a version of "Strays" recorded at the Culver City show.
SAILING THE SEAS OF MP3S: Primus will make each concert from its upcoming reunion tour available for purchase online. The outing, featuring the band's original lineup, launched last week in California and runs through the end of November. Shows from October will be available for purchase on the newly created Web site PrimusLive.com beginning Nov. 7.
Each performance will offered in MP3 and FLAC audio formats. Pricing for the downloads has not yet been set. After Nov. 7, new concerts will be posted online 48 hours after their completion. Fans will also be able to download artwork for use in CD jewel cases.
Primus will play a different first set each night of the trek, dubbed the Tour de Fromage, followed by a second set replicating the 1991 album "Sailing the Seas of Cheese" in its entirety. The tour marks the first time leader Les Claypool and guitarist Larry LaLonde are performing with original drummer Tim Alexander since his 1996 departure.