Coldplay's free download offering proved to be no shrinking violet when it went live on the band's Web site today.

The site slowed to a halt soon after the track, "Violet Hill," which has a harder, more experimental sound than previous Coldplay releases, was made available just after midday U.K. time.

After several attempts, Billboard managed to obtain a copy of the song, the first from the upcoming album "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends". The Web site asks for the user's email and postcode details, after which an automatically-generated email is sent to the downloader's inbox.

The email contains a link to the free MP3, which pops-up on the desktop within a zip-file. The URL apparently expires in six hours.

An EMI spokesman declined to reveal how many downloads were delivered on day one. However, Last.fm reckons it has been tracking listens of the track, and puts the figure at 10,000 times in the five hours since release -- a rate of 1 play every 2 seconds.

"Violet Hill" will get a conventional paid-for digital release on May 6, ahead of the album's release June 12.

The track was given its world exclusive first airing on Jo Whiley's BBC Radio 1 show this lunchtime, with Coldplay's Chris Martin on hand. During his conversation with Whiley, Martin revealed that the band would also play a free concert in Barcelona, Spain, but did not disclose the venue or date of the gig.

As previously reported, the band will support the album with free shows at London's Brixton Academy on June 16 and Madison Square Garden in N.Y. on June 23.