Internet ingenuity

David Bowie was the first artist to put a pre-release album on the net a couple of years ago. Since then it has become increasingly popular. Lenny Kravitz is releasing an exclusive track online (www.lennykravitz.com); Simple Minds have launched their official Web site with a live performance from the CyberTheatre in Brussels (www.sim- pleminds.com); and The Beastie Boys will preview their new album, Hello Nasty, adding a new track each week until the album's release in July.

There are many reasons for the explosion in interest: the Internet bypasses record companies and shops, communication with the audience is more direct and it the process of selling is greatly speeded up. "There is a distinct possibility that the whole fabric of the music industry will change," says Tim Barr, editor of Future Music. Ultimately, how will record companies and retailers fit in with the new marketing and selling techniques?

There are examples of how the internet and traditional record sales could work together. For example, the Internet cafe Cyberia has a deal with several record companies which allow records to be downloaded online in return for a fee.

General genres

The Grammy Awards already number 92, and more awards have been announced this week: Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance, Best Classical Crossover Album and Best Tejano Music Performance. Grammy President, Michael Greene defends the proliferation: "The new categories reflect our keen awareness of changing trends in music."

By contrast, other recent events look set to reduce competition. The Seagram Company, better known for Absolut vodka, has just brought PolyGram NV, making it the biggest music company in the world. But they may have problems with the regulatory boards because it will reduce the total number of music competitors worldwide from six to five and Seagram will account for one out of five albums sold in the UK.

Music manifestos

This weeks' opposing camps in the pop at politics arena are Simply Red frontman, Mick Hucknall and Pulp. "The `Cool Britannia' thing is a media fantasy," said Hucknall. He also observed that: "Rock music doesn't necessarily have to continually repeat itself. Just because the Beatles were rebellious and the Sex Pistols were doesn't mean to say that it will always be that way in every generation."

While Mick was making sweeping statements to advocate the party line, Pulp's new single contains lyrics that describe a socialist offering a line of cocaine. Released on 8 June, "Cocaine Socialism" is the B-side to their next single "A Little Soul". Pulp bassist Steve Mackey has said it was written by frontman Jarvis Cocker after he was cornered on holiday by a Labour Party representative wanting support for the electoral campaign. Jarvis told him to "piss off", and penned this tunes' more uncompromising response.

Here is a sample: "Do you want a line of this/ Are you a socialist... Well you sing about common people.../ So you can bring them to my party and get them all to sniff this..." A Labour spokesperson said that the song doesn't seem to make much sense.

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