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Mainstream rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers have resorted to emotional blackmail to prevent their fans from downloading illegal copies of their new album before it is released on 9 May.

Flea, their much-admired bassist, and a man who, like the other "peppers", is wont to make an exhibition of his naked torso, told fans in a letter posted on the website of the Red Hot Chili Peppers Fan Club on Tuesday that it would "break my heart" if they downloaded the new album.

He called upon the sensitive souls of his colleagues, who together form one of the biggest selling bands in the world, as expert witnesses in his case: "it will break john frusciante's heart. it will break anthony kiedis's heart. and it will break the heart of chad smith," he wrote.

But Flea, also known as Michael Balzary, also said there were "equitable business reasons" why fans should buy the album, citing the hard work the band members had put into it.

The group is thought to have sold 50m albums and is not short of a bob or two. But that does not mean they are any less human. Flea confessed how deeply hurt the band would be to think their fans had to listen to poor quality copies of music they had put so much time into producing.

Indeed, he said the thought "bums all of us out", and guitarist John Frusciante in particular would be "hurt deep inside".

The Chili Peppers' record company and numerous retailers are counting on making big bucks out of the new album, "Stadium Arcadium".

Fans should, he said, appeal to their own consciences before deciding whether to download the new album or buy it in the shops. ®

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