When it comes to the music of Pearl Jam, Caryn Rose is not your average fan. She's something else entirely.
The 33-year-old Seattlelite is not only co-webmaster of Five Horizons, a
Pearl Jam Internet fanzine, she's also considering flying to Hawaii for the
opening night of the band's upcoming tour.
Yet unlike most Pearl Jam fans, Rose was not glued to the radio
over the holiday weekend as about a dozen stations throughout the United
States began broadcasting the group's first single
(RealAudio excerpt) off their upcoming album, Yield, almost a month before the song was to be released to radio for airplay by Epic Records, the label to which Pearl Jam are signed.
"It's not anything I want any part of," Rose said. "If Pearl Jam wanted it
out right now, it would be out right now. Sony [the parent company of PJ's
label, Epic] would turn this down for Christmas? I need to respect their
Rose likened hearing the song before it was officially released to seeking out hidden Christmas presents, only to ruin the surprise.
But Pat Ferrise, music director for Washington, D.C.'s modern rock
powerhouse WHFS-FM, said most Pearl Jam fans are eager to hear the band's new material. He added that there is clear competition among stations to see
which can be the first to break a song.
"A lot of people like Pearl Jam," said Ferrise, whose station began
broadcasting the track on Thanksgiving day, but has since been ordered by Epic to stop playing the tune. "They're a really popular band, and it's a really good song. Sure there's competition for that. It's cool for us because we like the song and people like the band a lot. It's great if you're able to get it early to put it on the radio and play it."
Ferrise would not reveal where WHFS procured its copy of "Given to Fly,"
but did say that none of the stations that played the song early obtained
it through Epic, which has since ordered all stations playing the tune to stop doing so.
Epic faxed cease and desist orders to the offending radio stations Monday
morning and airplay subsequently came to a halt. Label promotional executive Stu Bergen said that early radio play "is disruptive to the overall marketing plan of the album."
The label will send its official copies of "Given to Fly" to stations for airplay beginning on Christmas Eve. The band's next album won't land in stores until Feb. 3.
Still, the holiday airplay afforded more than enough time for enterprising
fans to record the song and post it on Pearl Jam newsgroups and Internet web pages. Rose said Five Horizons received hate mail, including a note that said the webmaster "deserved to die" for refusing to post the song.
Don Engel, an attorney who counts both artists and record companies among
his clients, said that whether a record company has any legal recourse against
radio stations playing music before it is officially released to them depends upon how the music is secured. During the 1980s, while representing disco diva Donna Summer, Engel induced a record company to pursue action against radio stations who were playing music by Summer that they obtained through illegal channels.
"If somebody steals the property then tries to play it, they can be
prevented from doing it," Engel said. "If they come into possession of it
innocently, then you've got a really difficult problem, because you may not
be able to control it. You can't just tell people when to play your
If for instance, Engel added, a record company simply lost its product, and
then a second party found it and turned it over to a radio station, the
label would have a much more difficult time preventing airplay.
Asked whether some songs are purposefully leaked to radio, Engel said he had no doubt that at times record companies or others close to the artist let the material out early. "Sometimes an artist's manager may feel that the early buzz is going to be good and will leak it to a friend at a radio station," he said. "It could be anybody."
At press time, Kelly Curtis, Pearl Jam's manager, had not returned repeated phone calls about the leak. Colleen Combs, representative for Kelly Curtis Management, said she had no idea how the song had been leaked.
Meanwhile, WHFS's Ferrise said he had heard through the grapevine that Pearl Jam was aware that radio stations had already played "Given to Fly." "I think that they were curious how people got it," he said. "And I think their second
reaction, from what I was told, was did people like it?" [Mon., Dec. 1, 1997, 6 p.m. PDT]