Josh Wardell knew it was too good to last.
"If they called, I figured I would just take them down," Wardell said on Thursday afternoon, speaking of the high-quality MP3 audio
files of 10 new Pearl Jam songs that he had posted on his website until Wednesday when a representative from the band's label, Epic Records, told him to remove them.
The 19-year-old Syracuse University student taped the studio versions of some of the songs, scheduled for inclusion on the band's upcoming
album, Yield (Feb. 3), from the Syracuse radio station WKRL, which played the entire album -- without the label's consent --
It wasn't long before Epic got wind of Wardell's industrious work. He said he was contacted by the label rep Wednesday
night and politely asked to remove the album files. "They were real nice about it,"
said the computer engineering major, who noted that the person who got in touch with him was a Syracuse alum. "I didn't want to
make trouble. I was basically going to have them up until someone asked me to take them down."
Among the songs Wardell had on his "Josh Wardell's Pearl Jam MP3 Archive" site were new tunes "In Hiding," "Lowlight" and
"Pilate," all of which are slated for the band's upcoming album.
"The reason we asked him to remove the studio songs was that we felt
that would damage the release of the album," said a source at Epic who
spoke only under condition of anonymity.
The source noted that broadcast of the songs had come full circle: at least
one radio station had downloaded Wardell's MP3 files and had begun playing
them on the air. "Josh was doing us a favor by taking the files down,"
said the source.
Fans who visited Wardell's site on Thursday were greeted with the message, "Notice something missing? Epic called me tonight (can't
say I didn't expect it) and asked me to take off the Yield clips. So, sorry, you can't get them here (and please don't e-mail me
asking for them) ... The studio Yield clips are of course removed, but there are still live recordings (don't download them if
you want to wait for the release to hear the new songs!) and lyrics."
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 on Dec. 1 to halt early airings of the song.
Syracuse modern-rock station WKRL-FM, however, did not hear from Epic for another three days -- after the station had already
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."
On Tuesday, Epic records spokeswoman Heather Davis 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.
The unnamed Epic source said the worldwide availability of the Pearl
Jam tracks nearly three months before they are to be released to stores was
precedent-setting. "This is the first incident of its kind," said the
source. "That's why we didn't know how to deal with it at first. Really
it's a testament to how big a fan Josh was."
The source said Epic is now searching the Web to see if other pages are
hosting the clips that Wardell removed. Thus far none have been found,
although several sites continue to house MP3s of the single "Given to Fly."
"We're leaving that alone," the source said.
This is not the first time there has been a crackdown of music files on the web. Oasis fan sites were pressured into taking audio files of new and
old music down last summer after Oasis' representatives claimed the audio files were a copyright infringement.
Until Wednesday's call, Wardell said he had 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," RIAA spokeswoman
Alexandra Walsh said Wednesday. "We see this as an artist-driven issue, just like bootlegs."
And while he may not have wanted to close shop as early as he did, Wardell said he had planned to shut down the archive for the
holidays anyway. "I'll be gone for Christmas break and I can't leave my computer running in the dorm," Wardell said Tuesday.
Aside from drawing "tons" of traffic to his site, Wardell said he was interviewed by two radio stations live on the air Thursday and
has two more interviews scheduled Friday. The Detroit Free Press did a story on his site as well, he added.
"But I've got two exams to study for," he lamented.
(ATN's Staff Writer Chris Nelson contributed to this story.)[Fri., Dec. 12, 1997, 9 a.m.