The announcement signals the first instance of a high-profile band using Iomega's Zip disks to distribute music, according to Public Enemy front man Chuck D's manager, Walter Leaphart. Chuck D has been an outspoken proponent for using new technologies, especially the Web, to change the relationship between artists, record companies, and fans.
Zip disks are portable storage devices that are added as disk drives into computers and some peripherals. Zips come in 100 MB and 250 MB versions, and have an installed base of 24 million users, the company estimated. Iomega is undergoing an initiative to secure downloads onto Zip drives, according to an Iomega spokeswoman. Users who download music onto Zips will be unable to copy or distribute the files.
"Nobody else has conceived of putting a record on a Zip disk," Leaphart said. "This stretches the limit in how we deliver music."
The new album There's A Poison Goin' On will be available on Zip disk for $16.98 on the Atomic Pop Web site. Atomic Pop is also in talks with major brick-and-mortar music and computer product retailers to carry the Zip albums, according to Al Teller, Atomic Pop's founder and chief executive. He declined to name them.
"With Public Enemy, we're trying to bring their music to the marketplace with as many formats that consumers will be interested in," said Teller.
Last year, Chuck D ran up against his former record company Def Jam when he posted unreleased Public Enemy tracks on his Web site. The tracks were posted in MP3, which compresses music into downloadable files that can be easily distributed over the Internet.
The MP3 format is legal, but the mainstream record industry fears it because it allows for the easy distribution of unauthorized copies of copyright-protected works. The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents major U.S. record labels, has taken legal action against Diamond Multimedia, which manufactures MP3 playback devices. The RIAA also is spearheading the Secure Digital Music Initiative, an effort to create specifications that could be embedded in any music technology to ensure copyright protection.
Chuck D has been vocal in promoting new technologies such as MP3 to increase artists' ownership of their music. Atomic Pop's Teller said independent record companies incorporating new Web technologies are using different revenue sharing structures that give artists a larger stake in sales and ownership of their master recordings.
Teller added that the new Public Enemy album will be released in stores on June 21. The album is now being sold on Amazon.