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MP3 and the Net: stars give their views

Top bands and industry insiders tell us what they think

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While at the V2000 music festival this weekend, we took the opportunity to ask a few bands what they thought about the Internet and MP3s.

The Internet has certainly had a significant impact on the music industry in the past year. The most physical representation of this is the appearance of hundreds more music journalists, neatly split into young women and geeky looking blokes. The women get more interviews and giggle more.

On arrival, we were forced to sign a piece of paper, removing our rights for Internet footage of the bands because they had already been sold to big corporations for wodges of cash (words are alright). We spoke to a man who brokered some of the deals. With pure corporate logic, music labels are simultaneously excited and furious about the Internet. The split comes down pretty firmly on whether they can make any instant money from it.

But enough of that - what we were really interested in is how the industry is treating its big-name bands in regard to the Net. Dance supremos Underworld were more than enthusiastic. Apparently, not only has its label trained them up on Web stuff but allows them heavy input into what happens. Is it possible that labels have grasped the idea of free access to be recouped in wider awareness? The band plans to release exclusive online tracks in the weeks leading up to its new album. Its site can be found at www.dirty.org.

Supergrass have also got into the Net. There are three sites for the band, updated through their manager's laptop and under the umbrella www.supergrass.com. However, you won't find any talk of handing out songs. Instead, while the band like the Net and its possibilities, they're not so keen on Napster's ability to override copyright. The band's guitarist told us that a cover track they intended to play that night had been found through Napster but reckons there should be a time delay on putting stuff up.

We vaguely remember a member of James (or was it Brand New Heavies?) telling us MP3s were great before launching into a tirade against Richard Ashcroft. In fact, hatred of Ashcroft was a recurring theme among bands, roadies, PR men and organisers. Seems to have rather a high opinion of himself.

So what, if anything, have we learnt? That the music industry has woken up to two aspects of the Internet. One, that it has more media rights it can sell and two, that personal input from the band is a very good idea. It is still extremely fearful of MP3s but is willing to use them as promotion. One interesting aspect is that top-name bands are not only aware of issues involved but are being actively encouraged to get involved. And, er, that's it. We're going to have a shower and get some sleep.

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