Punk band battling record label over Internet

The Associated Press
Saturday September 16, 2000

The Offspring want to post new single; Sony says no 


LOS ANGELES – On the eve of an industry court battle against Napster over free music downloads, the multi-platinum selling punk band The Offspring announced Friday that it would post a single from its new CD on the Internet more than a month before it goes on sale, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

Although the band’s Web site touted “Tune in Friday for BIG news about The Offspring’s new album and tour!!” it did not announce a free download. 

But the Times reported that record distributor Sony Music Entertainment, The Offspring’s label, has ordered the band to cancel the giveaway, calling it a contractual violation. A call to New York-based Sony before business hours was answered by a recording saying its headquarters opened at 8:45 a.m. EDT. 

“The reality is that this album is going to end up on the Internet whether we want it to or not,” singer Dexter Holland told the Times. “So we thought, why don’t we just do it ourselves? We’re not afraid of the Internet. 

“We think it’s a very cool way to reach our fans.” 

The Orange County-based band and its manager, Jim Guerinot, asked Sony in 1998 if they could put up downloadable MP3 digital sound files of “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)” on their Web site before the song was released to radio stations. Sony opposed the plan and the group abandoned the idea. 

But as soon as the tune became a hit, fans began posting and trading unauthorized versions on Napster and other Web sites. At the time, Rolling Stone magazine listed The Offspring as the No. 1 downloaded band nationwide. Wired magazine said 22 million computer users downloaded “Pretty Fly.” 

“Digital downloading was not hurting our sales. In fact, it may have been helping,” Holland added, saying his group’s 1998 album, “Americana,” has sold nearly 12 million copies in the United States and overseas even though the hit single “Pretty Fly” was downloaded without permission. 

The band’s plan is to offer “Original Prankster,” a single from their album set to hit stores Nov. 14, next Friday, Sept. 22. The download will be available from The Offspring’s Web site, Napster and other online sites, the Times reported. 

Each fan who downloads the single and registers an e-mail address will be entered in a $1 million contest. The winner will be announced live on MTV. 

The fan database will be used to entice consumers to buy the new CD. Those who buy it will be e-mailed additional album tracks once a month through spring 2001, along with original online animation features. Those who get the CD also will have access to other perks including prime concert seating. 

“It’s our way of saying, ‘Hey, we know you could’ve just gotten it for free and we think it’s great that you went out and bought it,”’ Holland said. 

But the plan has hit a sour note with Sony. 

The band’s action comes just four days before Sony and other record conglomerates go to trial against Napster and its 25 million users. The companies claim Napster, which offers music sharing software, is killing their profits by making music available without compensation to record labels. 

The Offspring, unlike Metallica and other musicians suing Napster, say unauthorized downloading can help boost CD sales. 

“What these industry attorneys fail to realize is that MP3 has replaced sex as the most sought after thing on the Internet,” band manager Guerinot told the Times. “It’s our job to figure out how to market, promote and sell music in cyberspace, not just unplug 25 million potential customers.”