Anti war, pro sales

25 Mar 2003

Madonna and REM, quite possibly with wholly different motives, have both brought out anti-war singles online and in the case of the Material Girl has broken a little bit of virgin internet soil.

Charging US$1.49 for a high-quality wholly unrestricted MP3 download of the single American Life on her website, Madge is also asking for help from her fans to sell the single (only available to US customers) on their sites.

After the news went out, it’s understood that thousands of people signed up to be web affiliates.

The singer’s site last week boasted: “The project is a top-secret initiative to revolutionise how music is distributed on the web and Madonna wants you to join in. The more singles sold through your site the better your chance to win a pat on the back, a gold star and some serious Madonna prizes.”

The MP3 format allows fans to burn the single to a CD or put it onto a portable device without the difficulties and restrictions that authorised downloads from major labels have.

Dubbed ‘The Madonna Project’ the singer’s marketing people put banners and advertisement for the ‘anti-war’ single on pop-up ads on fan web pages last week. If these ads resulted in sales of the single they would get credit toward Madonna prizes and merchandise.

Madonna has been amongst the most publicly vocal in her annoyance over Napster’s stealing an online march on her work before its official release and more recently has been blocking distribution of her work through legal online subscription services.

The Madonna Project strategy, in its efforts to play illegal file swappers at their own game, promised buyers that if the single slipped out on any file swapping network before the official release date, (which it did) they would get the single posted to their email address on the same day – and so they did.

The single was also released simultaneously on that day on a number of the legal online music subscription services.

REM, on the other hand, have no such strategies behind the release of their anti-war single The Final Straw which has been posted on their website

In a message on the site singer Michael Stipe said: “We had to send something out there now. We are praying and hoping for the lives of all people involved, the troops, the Iraqi civilians, refugees, POWs, families of troops, the innocents, that they are safe and okay. Safe home, all.”

By Suzanne Byrne