October 04, 2006

Underworld Web Releases Avoid iTunes

The British techno duo Underworld has always danced to their own beat. One of my favorite bands for a decade now, the group has performed in the best pair of concerts I've ever seen in my life, released the concert DVD that pushed me to by my first DVD player (which I still have), and continues to push the cutting edge on musical style and distribution.

The group, now a duo after losing famed DJ Darren Emerson, has often leaned toward longer tracks - in the 10-plus minute variety, rather than easy-bake radio hits that venture from three to five minutes, as the vast majority of pop artists do. But even these lengths seemed unwieldy to the oddly creative group, who has now found a home, at underworldlive.com, to issue exclusive tracks, which can range anywhere from 20 minutes to more than half an hour. The tracks, not bound by any Digital Rights Management (DRM) software, as Apple's iTunes and other offerings do, cost 5 British pounds apiece, are only available to registered users of their site, and download, encoded in Zip format, to a full track, as well as thirty-plus pages of the band's artwork.

I told you they were creative...

In 2005, the band first took the leap to direct from the Web sales, with its RiverRun project, issuing the singles "Pizza for Eggs" and "Lovely Broken Thing". Earlier this year, they continued, with "I'm a Big Sister, and I'm a Girl, and I'm a Princess and this is my Horse." (Don't ask) For customers like myself, who purchased all three, fans get a bonus download of "The Misterons Mix", only available to those who invested in triplicate.

Though best known for their Trainspotting-fueled classic "Born Slippy", Underworld has pioneered some of the most pure, electric sounds in the genre. It should be interesting to see how lucrative they find this eclectic move, with a bare minimum of publicity. It is especially interesting to see their avoidance of forced music lockdowns. On their site, they write, "We are not using any copy protection or drm as we prefer to start from the point of trusting our customers. If the system is abused, we will have to review how we provide content."

This is yet another amazing testimony to the Web - giving artists direct access to the fans, avoiding the middleman. The next time Underworld comes to your town, go see them. Until then, make sure you visit underworldlive.com. You might like what you find.

Listening to ''Pizza For Eggs'', by Underworld (Play Count: 6)