The Offspring battle their label over Internet policy |


The Offspring battle their label over Internet policy reveals which other rockers are fighting for their Web fans

The Offspring

'CONSPIRACY' THEORY Green Day have been stifled by their label (Offspring: F. Scott Schafer)

Publicity or piracy? Many bands have waxed lyrical about online music swapping, but the Napster friendly group the Offspring tried to put their beliefs into action – until Sony Music (owners of the group’s label, Columbia) threatened them with dire legal consequences. The multiplatinum Orange County surf punks announced they would make their entire new album, ”Conspiracy of One,” available for free download on their website before its official Nov. 14 release. But Sony – which is embroiled in the Recording Industry Association of America’s copyright lawsuit against Napster – forced them to nix the offer.

The band’s rep, Steve Martin, tells that Sony had been prepared to file an injunction against the Offspring to stop the free downloads. At first, the band wanted to countersue for breach of contract, but they quickly realized that such legal entanglements would only delay the album’s release and paralyze their activities for months. A Columbia spokesperson declined to comment on the dispute except to tell that the label is ”extremely happy that Sony Music has worked out a solution with the Offspring and their management.” For now, this means the group will be offering only ”Conspiracy”’s first single, ”Original Prankster,” for free download, beginning Sept. 29. Those who retrieve the song will also be able to enter a contest to win $1 million.

Of course, the Offspring aren’t the only opinionated punks with a new album coming out this fall. Here’s’s look at some hot rock releases, including our take on which groups are living up to their Internet beliefs and which aren’t.

Album ”Warning” (release date Oct. 3)
What they’ve said The band’s comments about Napster and other MP3 services show they understand both sides of the issue. ”I think there’s a lot of people that are broke that need to get paid,” frontman Billie Joe Armstrong has said. ”I think they have a right to argue [with Napster] – but not the bigger sort of rock stars that have been getting paid for years.”
What they’ve done Rep Amanda Cagan says the group was among the first to put a ”digital watermark” on promo copies of ”Warning.” This means their label can track anyone who uploads songs to the Web – a move that would raise harrowing privacy issues if someday all CDs carried similar devices. ”This is a decision between the label and the band,” says Cagan.
Verdict Warning, indeed. None of Green Day’s recent albums have sold 10 million copies (like their major label debut, ”Dookie”), but 1997’s ”Nimrod” moved an ample 2 million units. Sure, these guys aren’t suing anyone – but they’re hardly struggling for recognition either. Maybe they should live up to their word and lay off potential pirates.

Album ”Kid A” (Oct. 3)
What they’ve said When all but one track from ”Kid A” appeared on Napster last month, the Oxford quintet didn’t seem dismayed. ”The band are quite flattered. Obviously, you have to be concerned how they [the songs] were obtained, but the fact that they have turned up on Napster so early shows there is huge interest,” said a rep at that time.
What they’ve done Radiohead’s rep Robin Bechtel says the band and their label, Capitol, ”took serious measures” to keep ”Kid A” off the Internet for as long as possible. But once songs showed up on Napster, Radiohead sponsored ”global listening parties” that enabled surfers to hear all of ”Kid A” on their homepage as well as several retail sites. Fans were allowed to download the music and listen to it, but only for a limited time. ”Radiohead has a huge fan base on the Internet,” says Bechtel. ”It’s common sense to me [that] if people get to hear a whole album, they’re going to go out and buy it.”
Verdict Radiohead know they can’t beat their online fans. Perhaps they’ve found the ideal way to join them.

Album ”Chocolate Starfish and the Hot-Dog Flavored Water” (Oct. 17)
What they’ve said Lead singer Fred Durst is certainly outspoken when it comes to Napster. Not only did the band agree to let the controversial file swapping service sponsor their most recent tour, but the frontman loudly castigates rockers like Metallica who’ve taken legal action against the Internet company. ”I would think the only people worried about [Napster] are people that are really worried about their bank accounts,” Durst has said.
What they’ve done Not much. The band’s official site is touting a Pepsi cap reminiscent ”Gold CD” contest that encourages fans to buy their upcoming album in stores. Those who purchase copies of ”Chocolate Starfish” have a chance to win prizes such as free lifetime backstage passes to all Bizkit’s concerts. Their online Interscope rep Ray Ivy assures us that the band ”absolutely” plans to follow through on their Web friendly message with real online promotions. ”We just don’t have anything super locked down yet,” he says.
Verdict Given that ”Chocolate Starfish” is due in just three weeks, these guys better get their act together fast. Until they do, Durst is big talk, little action.

Album ”Awake” (Oct. 31)
What they’ve said During a performance of the single ”Sick of Life” at this summer’s Ozzfest, lead singer Sully Erna lashed out at MP3 trading services. ”I don’t want to see anybody downloading [this song] on Napster,” he said, before dismissing the file sharing service with an unprintable expletive.
What they’ve done Like Green Day, Godsmack’s promo material is equipped with a ”digital watermark.” The band’s rep Maggie Wang says she doesn’t know of any planned online promotions for the new album. But if the group’s official label run site is any indication, there won’t be much in the offing. Surfers can hear parts of the last album, ”Godsmack,” via RealAudio, but if they’re looking for MP3 freebies, they’ll have to go to Napster.
Verdict Beware, Web surfers. These guys can get mean.