Hip-hop’s Public Enemy partners with BitTorrent to give power to the people

publiceTurns out that, at least when it comes to BitTorrent, you should believe the hype after all.

Chuck D, member of the hip-hop group Public Enemy, has long supported file sharing; as far back as 2001, he was telling a music conference that “[Record] labels need to see that trying to fight MP3s is trying to shout at a thunderstorm, it’s going to happen, you’ve got to come up with ways adapt to it, and make it work for everybody.” Two years later, he was even more adamant, telling a U.S. Senate hearing that “P2P to me means power to the people… I trust the consumer more than I trust the people at the helm of these [record] companies.”

Now, he and his bandmates are putting their money – or, more specifically, their music – where their mouth is, releasing the video for their new track via BitTorrent’s new Bundle format. Announced on BitTorrent’s official blog on Wednesday, the video for Public Enemy’s latest track – “Get Up Stand Up” featuring Brother Ali – will be available to anyone willing to share their e-mail with the band. But that’s not all they’ll get. 

“Opt to unlock the Bundle with your e-mail, and you’ll get the music video, plus outtakes, from Public Enemy,” the blog post explains. “You’ll also get the exclusive multitrack: 37 acapellas and stems. Make your own Public Enemy mix, and if the group likes what they hear, they’ll release it digitally for you. Call it creative activism.”

In fact, it’s a contest. The band will listen to the submitted tracks, and choose nine winners. Five “third prize” winners will receive Public Enemy merchandise, three “second prize” winners will get the merchandise and equipment from Blue Mics and Native Instruments, while the “first prize” winner gets all of that plus their mix being officially released by the band. Creative activism, perhaps, but oddly commodified with the notion of a “prize” at the end.

Chuck D’s manager (and occasional Public Enemy producer) Gary “G-Wiz” Rinaldo was quoted in the BitTorrent post, talking about the reason why the band decided to release the stems in this manner. “For many established people in the music business, there’s a fear that comes along with [technology],” he said. “We don’t have that fear. The ability to freely share an archive and have flexibility on how it can be used is an extremely powerful tool when it comes to making music and media available.”

This is just the latest in a series of official music releases from BitTorrent, with previous artists sharing their music through the service including DJ Shadow and Kaskade, the latter of whom launched the new Bundle format last month. The company is seeking to promote itself as a legitimate distribution format, as opposed to a gateway to piracy; with more releases like this, hopefully that change in perception won’t be too long coming.

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