Digital Flashback: One Small Step For Tori Amos ...

One giant leap for artists using cyberspace to get their music to listeners before release.

Four years ago this week, Tori Amos took a defining step toward establishing

herself as a cyberspace pioneer by posting an unreleased song online.

It was one of the earliest examples of a now-commonplace practice that

has revolutionized the way listeners are exposed to music.

On Dec. 11, 1995, Amos, whose albums have sold in the millions worldwide,

posted the single "Caught a Lite Sneeze" (RealAudio

excerpt) for previewing online in RealAudio format. Boys for

Pele, the album the track came from, wouldn't hit stores for another

six weeks.

Maintaining a dedicated fanbase on the Net, Amos has continued to make

inroads there, most recently in connection with this year's to venus

and back.

In August, she began using the Web not only for the increasingly common

goal of promoting singles but also to actually sell them in downloadable

form. Online retailers such as CDNow and Tower Records sold the single

"Bliss" in the Liquid Audio and Windows Media formats for $1.99 or less.

Also in August, and into September, Amos co-headlined the 5 1/2 Weeks

tour with Alanis Morissette. The outing was sponsored by downloadable-music

site MP3.com.

"I'm excited about the whole MP3 thing," Amos recently told VH1.com. "I

think it works for some people, but I'm really into the integrity of people

showing appreciation for the artists. Not everything is free. Good wine

is not free. As a hostess, when people come, I always serve them good

wine. But, I think, if [I'm] going to a vineyard, ... they give me things

to drink, but there is reciprocity. I'll usually buy a case. With computers,

there's also a way to be generous but a way to give respect."

On the same day Amos posted "Caught a Lite Sneeze," Grateful Dead veterans

Phil Lesh and Mickey Hart took part in an online chat, from the Fillmore

Auditorium, during which they previewed tracks from the band's Dick's

Picks live album series.

And last year at this time, Billy Idol posted the songs "Find a Way" and

"Sleeping With an Angel" on the MP3.com website. The songs were removed

soon after, when Capitol Records demanded the songs be taken down, a

source close to the rocker said at the time. A Capitol Records spokesperson

did not respond to the claim.