Billboard Bits: Napster/Grand Royal, Shaggy, T. Hip

News on Napster, Grand Royal, Shaggy, and Tragically Hip's Gordon Downie

Nullset The Beastie Boys-run Grand Royal label has teamed with embattled file-swapping company Napster to promote Grand Royal artists online via free downloads. The first track available is "Smokewood," the title cut from Nullset's debut Grand Royal EP. The Prunes, Bran Van 3000, and Beastie Boy Ad Rock's BS 2000 side project will also be featured in the coming weeks.

In other Grand Royal news, the label will on July 17 release a vinyl edition of the upcoming Jimmy Eat World album "Bleed American," due July 24 on CD via DreamWorks. The LP version features the bonus track "(Splash) Turn Twist," and those who order through the Grand Royal Web site will receive a special link to a free MP3 download.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

ShaggyDo you know more about Shaggy than Shaggy does? Fans have their chance to prove just that by playing the free online game "OutSmart" at Microsoft's site. Developed by Jellyvision, the company behind the highly successful "You Don't Know Jack" series of PC trivia games, the interactive Shaggy episode of "OutSmart" debuts online today (June 19).

Launched in May with players matching wits with "Dark Angel" star Jessica Alba, upcoming "OutSmart" episodes will feature many more music stars, including Sisqo, Mya, and Mariah Carey. High scores are posted on the site, with top winners periodically selected to compete in "OutSmart" events or receive prizes.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

Gordon DownieTragically Hip lead singer Gordon Downie will strike out on his own for brief North American tour in support of his upcoming solo album, "Coke Machine Glow," due July 10 via Zoe/Rounder. Kicking off July 22 in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, the trek will find Downie playing four Canadian festivals, and four intimate East Coast U.S. venues before wrapping Aug. 10 in Edmonton.

Downie will be joined on the road by the Dinner is Ruined's Dale Morningstar (guitar) and Dave Clark (drums), the Skydiggers' Josh Finlayson (guitar), and former Eric's Trip member Julie Doiron (bass/vocals), all of whom appear on the 16-track "Coke Machine Glow."

Released in April in Canada by Downie's own Weiner Art Records through Universal, the album is the audio companion of a Vintage Canada/Random House-published poetry book of the same name. Other guests who appear on the album include former Odds bassist Steven Drake, Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin Hearn, and fellow Tragically Hip member Paul Langlois.

Here are Downie's tour dates:
July 22: Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (Folk on the Rocks)
July 27: Calgary, Alberta (Calgary Folk Music Festival/Prince's Island Park)
July 29: Guelph, Ontario (Hillside Festival)
July 31: Philadelphia (Tin Angel)
Aug. 1: New York (Fez)
Aug. 2: Annapolis, Md. (Ram's Head)
Aug. 4: Arlington, Va. (Iota Cafe)
Aug. 10: Edmonton, Alberta (Edmonton Folk Music Festival)

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.


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