The Tangled Web

The Web's Most Intriguing Music-Related Issues & Destinations. This Week: Heart & Morpheus and The Wire's blogs.

P2P USERS, TAKE HEART: Veteran rock act Heart is the latest group to test out the peer-to-peer waters in an attempt to use one of the news-making illicit networks as a distribution channel for legitimate licensed music. The band is making tracks from its new album, "Jupiter's Darling" (Soverign Artists), as well as the exclusive song "Love Hurts," available to fans via P2P service Morpheus in the form of Weed files -- Windows Media Files encoded with Microsoft's DRM.

The chosen format will allow fans to download the files and listen to each three times for free. After three "preview" listens, the file will lock up and the user will have to purchase it via online music distributor Weedshare to continue listening. Once a track is "shared" with another network user, it will once again allow that user three free listens before prompting for the fee.

Interestingly, each Morpheus user who redistributes the tracks will be able to profit financially for his or her contribution to the distribution chain. Users will receive payback on a sliding scale of 20% for direct sales, 10% for secondary-level sales (the buyer got the track from someone who got it from the distributor), and so forth. The band hopes empowering users to take part in distributing its music and getting compensated will result in a profitable marketing opportunity.

HeartThe effort marks the first time Morpheus has been involved with selling music to users via its P2P networks.

YOU'RE SUCH A WIRE: MP3 blogs seem to be thriving recently in spite of the music industry's attempts to curb online piracy. One of the guiding concepts that the blogs have used to escaped the biz's wrath is to focus on music by little-known acts, primarily independent artists who consent to fans sharing their music online as a form of marketing.

Swen's Weblog provides blog addicts with a fresh angle on MP3 subject matter -- it concentrates on music made by artists covered in U.K. magazine the Wire. The 20-year-old Wire certainly fits into the "flies under the RIAA's radar" category, as it covers "a wide range of progressive, adventurous and non-mainstream musics," according to its own Web site.

AutechreThe majority of the bands covered in any given issue of the magazine aren't likely to be found on the radio, so Swen and others of his ilk -- try The Unofficial Wire Companion -- frame their sites as unaffiliated 'services' to the Wire's readers and other fans of outré music.

Then again, the magazine also provides Web-based readers with a home-cooked music trove of its own. Its site hosts a rotating free-MP3 gallery currently featuring the likes of Jim O'Rourke, Kid 606, Electrelane, Autechre and Anticon. Also in its "Web Exclusive" section is an archive of radio programs -- the Wire's creators have been hosting a weekly show on London's 104.4 FM since January 2003. The most recent 20 or so of the 90-minute shows are archived on the site, each presented as a single free MP3 download.