As a computer engineering major at Syracuse University, Josh Wardell has a
few more technical skills under his belt than the average music fan -- but
when it comes to taping a new song from the radio, he has to play the
waiting game just like any listener. Last week, when Syracuse, N.Y.'s WKRL
previewed Pearl Jam's upcoming album Yield (Feb. 3) in its entirety --
without consent from the band or its record label -- Wardell sat glued to
his dorm room speakers.
"For six hours straight I had my finger on the record button waiting for
them to play something," said Wardell, 19. "All I could catch was 'In
Hiding,' 'Lowlight' and 'Pilate.'"
Once he had captured the songs, however, Wardell kicked his technical
prowess into high gear. "As soon as I recorded them, I had edited them and
encoded them," he said by phone from Syracuse on Tuesday.
Within 30 minutes of their airing on WKRL, "In Hiding," "Lowlight" and
"Pilate" (RealAudio excerpt) were available for Pearl Jam fans throughout the world on the
increasingly popular website known as "Josh Wardell's Pearl Jam MP3
Due to the efforts of Wardell and several other Pearl
Jam devotees, fans the world over can now hear 10 of
Yield's 13 songs (some of them live rather than studio
recordings and many in near-CD quality) over the Net -- nearly
three months before the album is released.
The grass-roots nature of the Internet, along with its speed and the recent
advent of high-quality MP3 audio file technology, have all conspired to
give Yield a world-wide -- and unauthorized -- preview like no album
On Tuesday, Epic records spokeswoman Heather Davis (Pearl Jam record for Epic) confirmed that the songs slated
for inclusion on the album are "Brain of J," "Faithful," "No Way," "Given
To Fly," "Wish List," "Pilate," "Do The Evolution," "MFC"
(known as "Many Fast Cars" on the Net), "Lowlight," "In Hiding," "Push Me
Pull Me," "All Those Yesterdays" and one song that, thus far, doesn't have a title.
Davis also described Yield's cover art as a photograph of a road
underneath a bright blue sky with a yield sign on the right-hand side of
the photo. The band's name appears in white on a black background in the
upper left-hand corner of the photo.
Davis said she did not know that Yield's tracks were
available on the Net as MP3s. Two weeks ago, label representatives were aware almost
immediately when several radio stations throughout the United States began
playing "Given to Fly," the album's first single, over the
Thanksgiving weekend -- a full month before Epic wanted the song aired. Epic sent cease and desist orders to halt early airings
of the song immediately after the holiday weekend on Dec. 1.
Syracuse modern rock station WKRL-FM, however, did not hear from Epic for
another three days -- after the station decided to air Yield in its
entirety. After playing the album straight through on the station's
morning program, WKRL continued to play one track every hour throughout the
day, offering Wardell and others like him the opportunity to record the songs.
When an Epic records representative called the following morning to request
the station discontinue its playing of Yield, the station scored a
coup on behalf of its listeners by putting the Epic rep on the air. "Our
owner went on the air with him," said afternoon disc jockey Scorch. "He
finagled a deal for Epic to give us 25 copies of the album to give away to
listeners before the album is in stores. He agreed, and then we promised
to stop playing the album."
Shortly after stations began playing their leaked copies of "Given to Fly,"
Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis said that Pearl Jam was disappointed at the
early airings. "All of us would prefer to wait so it was an equal playing
field for everybody out there in radioland," he told Addicted To Noise. "You've got all
those radio stations that didn't get it and they probably feel left out."
Wardell said he has never received complaints from Epic records, band
management or the Recording Industry Association of America.
Last June, the RIAA filed lawsuits against three MP3 "archive" sites, or
web pages that host MP3 files by a wide variety of artists. "We would only
pursue a fan site [like Wardell's] if that was the artist's wish," said
RIAA spokeswoman Alexandra Walsh on Wednesday. "We see this as an
artist-driven issue, just like bootlegs."
Wardell said he maintains his web page, which he began last February, in
the interest of both fans and Pearl Jam. He cited his own refusal to host
MP3 files of the band's four existing albums, as well as his intention to
cut his Yield tracks to 30-second clips after the album is released,
as evidence of his support for the band. He noted that most of the 200
songs housed at his site are live cuts and that Pearl Jam has a well-known
policy of allowing fans to tape their concerts.
Wardell said he's usually unable to listen to the MP3 files himself because
playing them will crash his computer when his web server is running. His
site, powered from his dorm room on a Macintosh home computer, can
accommodate up to 25 downloaders at a time and is typically running at full
Wardell said that he'd be shutting down "Josh Wardell's Pearl Jam MP3 Archive" for the holidays. "I'll be gone for Christmas break and I
can't leave my computer running in the dorm," Wardell said. "So in a week
it's going to be off-line until Jan. 15."
That's two weeks before the album lands in stores.
(Addicted To Noise Senior Writer Gil Kaufman contributed to this report.)
[Wed., Dec. 10, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]