Napster To Sponsor Free Tour By Limp Bizkit, Cypress Hill

Makers of controversial MP3-trading program will ante up $1.8 million for monthlong trek.

LOS ANGELES — Rap-rockers Limp Bizkit will play a monthlong string of free concerts with hip-hop group Cypress Hill this summer.

But it wasn't the tour that was the hot topic at a press conference Monday (April 24) announcing those plans — it was the trek's sponsor, Napster, maker of the controversial MP3-trading software of the same name.

"We wanted to do a free tour, and Napster stepped up," Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst said while fielding a flood of questions from reporters about the pairing. "It's so not deeper than you think it is."

Napster, who will put forth $1.8 million to make the shows free to fans, is under fire from many bands, including Metallica, who recently filed a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement and racketeering. Rapper Dr. Dre is likely to follow suit, said attorney Howard King, who represents Dr. Dre and Metallica.

"There's millions of people saying it's not a good thing — everybody in the music industry, everybody whose paychecks depend on doing anything but the Internet," Durst said after the press conference at the band's recording studio. "I haven't heard one thing from a fan that was negative. ... As long as that doesn't happen, I'm good to go. When the fans start complaining, then I'll start worrying."

The frontman said he had discussed Napster's sponsorship of the tour with Dr. Dre, and there are no hard feelings.

Durst, who is a vice president at Interscope Records, deflected questions about whether the deal could put him at odds with other bands or with Limp Bizkit's label. "We're not our label, we're Limp Bizkit," he said.

Dressed in solid black save for his white Adidas tennis shoes, Durst discussed the tour while sitting on a couch inside Westlake Studios with his bandmates — guitarist Wes Borland, drummer John Otto, bassist Sam Rivers and DJ Lethal — their manager, Jeff Kwatinetz, and Elizabeth Brooks, vice president of marketing for Napster. The band has been holed up in the studio for three months working on its third album, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, due in August.

"I'm the chocolate starfish, and [my group] is the hot-dog-flavored water," Durst said of the album's title. "I just think it's really funny and really cool."

Chance To 'Give Something Back'

Billed as a month of "Limpdependence," the Back to Basics tour will kick off July 4 in Chicago. Specific dates and venues were not announced, but the bands will play multiple nights at 3,000- to

5,000-seat locations in Minneapolis, Detroit, Boston, New York, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles before hanging it up Aug. 6. Another yet-to-be-announced act also will be aboard for the trek.

No tickets will be handed out for the shows; rather, fans will line up outside the venue and be allowed entrance on a first-come basis. Durst said security is a top priority.

The singer emphasized that the tour is a way to say thank you to fans, saying that the bands will not make a cent.

"Sometimes when bands become popular, they forget why they're there in the first place," the frontman said. "We just want to give something back to the fans that I don't think anyone has ever given them, which would be a free tour with no strings attached. ... I don't think there is any reason to be larger than life because we all have to share this world."

During the tour, Limp Bizkit will preview new material from Chocolate Starfish, the follow-up to 1999's multiplatinum Significant Other, which featured the singles "Nookie" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Re-Arranged." With most of the music set to tape, Durst said he's now entering the nerve-wracking stage of record making — writing lyrics and recording his vocals. "This is the stage where we suck and I have to deliver," he said.

The band plans to mount a full arena tour in the fall.

Durst Says He Supports Napster

Napster Inc., based in San Mateo, Calif., provides software that streamlines the process of exchanging near-CD-quality MP3 files. The program has taken the online-music community by storm. At any given time, hundreds of thousands of songs by artists ranging from Metallica to composer Ludwig van Beethoven are available for downloading.

"Honestly, we feel that the artists who have spoken out against us are not very well-informed about exactly how Napster works," Brooks said. "We're about the fans and the artists, and that's what Limp Bizkit's about, too. This will be great for them."

Durst said he was supportive of Napster's enabling fans to hear music without purchasing it. He recalled his own disappointment at buying albums only to discover that the only good song is the single. "It's a cool way to make sure that your $16 is being well spent," he said.

Limp Bizkit's partnership with Napster is just the latest signal that tomorrow's rock heroes will look different from today's, said Steve Jones, an intellectual property expert and communications professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who has followed the Napster debate closely.

"The new model pop star is an entrepreneur who diversifies. It's Durst, it's David Bowie — people you can point to and say, these are business people."

Almost one year ago to the day, singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette announced that she would mount a tour with Tori Amos sponsored by downloadable-music Web site MP3.com. At the time, MP3.com was as feared and reviled by many music industry executives as Napster is today.

Lawyer Ken Hertz, who represents both Morissette and Limp Bizkit's managers, the Firm, said the against-the-grain move was great for Morissette. "It put her in the center of a really important discussion," he said, "and it brought the debate forward."

Internet analyst Dan O'Brien of Forrester Research called the deal a marketing gimmick likely aimed to curry favor with the college crowd, but he agreed with Hertz that it's a necessary breaking of ranks with the industry.

"Unless someone gets out there and blesses it, no one's going to get up the learning curve," O'Brien said.

(Senior Writer Chris Nelson contributed to this report.)

(This story was updated at 10:22 PM EDT on Monday April 24, 2000.)