The audio, which comes from a 90-minute interview between Cobain and Chicago Sun-Times pop music critic Jim DeRogatis, is being released by Berkeley, Calif.-based Sobent and Johnson City, N.Y.-based multimedia company ThrottleBox Media as a way to showcase the latest version of ThrottleBox's 3.0 Player.
ThrottleBox's "Box file" technology lets people download to their desktops a single file that contains audio, video, photographs, text and hyperlinks. In the past, an individual would have to separately download an MP3 music file, AVI video file, JPEG photo file and so on.
The release comes as companies focusing on commercial music downloads struggle to find their footing in a slippery market that has been dominated by free alternatives, such as Napster. By giving vendors the ability to package offerings such as exclusive video clips, photos and band interviews, ThrottleBox's technology may help bolster demand for commercial download services.
While all of the major record labels have unveiled music download initiatives, none of them have gone beyond the experimental phase. Other models, such as streaming subscription services, have begun to gather momentum.
Companies banking on the download model are already feeling the pressure. This week, for example, secure-download service provider Supertracks laid off a third of its staff, citing continued reluctance by major labels to fully endorse music downloads.
"Companies that rely on downloads are feeling the squeeze," said Martin Tobias, the chief executive of Loudeye Technologies, which converts music and video files into formats that can be accessed over the Internet. "It's not clear that companies focused on that niche are in the right business."
ThrottleBox has used its technology to release old interviews with Jim Morrison and to showcase promotional pieces for various other bands. The company obtains permission from record labels, which provide the audio and video clips in exchange for free promotion and embedded links in the files that lead people to sites where they can purchase CDs--making it worth the label's while to dole out free music.
ThrottleBox said record labels have expressed interest in using its technology to distribute secured MP3 files.
"In order to pop out or extract that MP3 from the Box file, they might have to pay for it," said Lou Parmelee, ThrottleBox's director of marketing and content development. The company works with Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intertrust to develop encrypted and secured files.
In its current promotion, ThrottleBox is featuring an interview that took place in 1994 in Cobain's home on Lake Washington in Seattle shortly after the release of Nirvana's "In Utero" album.
DeRogatis spoke with Cobain in the singer's living room, decorated with just a couch, a playpen, a guitar and the dummy from "In Utero." The journalist said Cobain talked about his new album, his new baby and other topics, including guns. DeRogatis said in an interview with CNET News.com that there were no indications Cobain was having problems. The musician died from a self-inflicted shotgun blast at his home in April 1994.
"This was a guy who was really proud of his record, and he was happy with the state of his band, and he was starting to get comfortable with the idea that a lot of people cared what he had to say," DeRogatis said.
Pieces of DeRogatis' interview were published in the Chicago Sun-Times and other publications, but this will be the first time the actual audio of Cobain's voice has been released.
In addition to the audio interview, the download package will include exclusive photographs taken during the "In Utero" tour, photos of the Meat Puppets, who opened on that tour, and photos of Cobain's wife, musician Courtney Love.
The trailer from the controversial documentary "Kurt and Courtney" will be included as well as a trailer for the independent film "The Vigil," in which a group of fans travel from Canada to Seattle for Cobain's 1994 vigil. DeRogatis is also featured in the package, describing what it was like to interview Cobain.
The Cobain composite represents the company's first full-scale multimedia file using its 3.0 Player, which can support multiple audio and video files. The file will be available for free download this week exclusively at CNET Download.com.
News.com's Evan Hansen contributed to this report.