The Tangled Web

The Web's most intriguing music-related destinations. This week: VAST and Elvis Presley.

THE VAST REALM OF THE WEB: Within the past year, the likes of Radiohead, Korn, 50 Cent and Super Furry Animals have fallen victim to the latest threat of digital music file-sharing: Web leaks of unfinished albums. This phenomenon not only allows fans access to free music, it also facilitates the distribution of works-in-progress that haven't received the artists' proper finishing touches.

But for every threatening aspect of digital music distribution, there are artists who will try to turn it to their advantage. In this case, it's the atmospheric one-man rock band VAST, aka Jon Crosby, who has taken to selling in-progress songs as paid downloads from his official Web site.

Crosby is in the process of creating the third VAST album, following 1998's "Visual Audio Sensory Theater" and 2000's "Music for People" (Elektra). Though he isn't even finished with the new record -- mixing commenced this week in New York -- Crosby is already making money from it, and his fans are already hearing it. He has sold more than 1,800 copies of the 10-track MP3 collection "Version 3.X Turquoise" at $2.99 apiece, and is readying a second batch of in-progress works, titled "Version 3.X Crimson," for sale starting on Monday (Aug. 11).

Jon Crosby"It just makes sense," Crosby says of the initiative. "It's stripping everything down to the simplest level there is, which is just you make music and you make it available to people."

Crosby hopes to release a mixed version of the album to retail later this year via his own label, Two Blossoms. But while interacting earlier this year with fans on VAST's online message board, the idea arose to give them a sneak preview.

"There's a dance you have to play in the music industry with retail, press and promotion and touring," he says. "So we thought, instead of having [the fans] wait, let's just let them hear it now." Crosby says "Turquoise" and "Crimson" will partially overlap with the finished album -- songs from each will make their way through the mixing process to the retail version, but both also include tracks that won't make the final cut.

Crosby plans to sell the retail album in the same manner, for a similarly cheap price. "We're gonna always do this now," he says, "because we're free to do what we want. We'll just make music and put it online and sell it to the fans for the cheapest price we can get away with."

Elvis Presely KING OF THE NET: Elvis Presley didn't live long enough to see the rise of the Internet, but RCA/BMG's recent reissue campaign has brought the King online in regal fashion.

The label last week launched, a companion site to the forthcoming hits collection "Elvis 2nd To None." As previously reported, the disc is due Oct. 7, and will include 30 tracks in all, including a brand-new remix by renowned DJ Paul Oakenfold.

The site features a jukebox previewing RealAudio and Windows Media streams of the first 20 tracks on the album, with additional cuts to be added in the coming weeks. Each song has its own page, describing its creation and chart history, with anecdotes and photos from the appropriate era of Presley's career. It also boasts video footage of Elvis performances, games such as the "Virtual Elvis" and various contests and downloads.