Cult band the Residents and the Cordless e-label have teamed up to create something that is either a unique multimedia experience that will link the physical, digital and mobile worlds -- or is just plain wacky. On June 13, Cordless issued the Residents' "River of Crime" -- a 1940s-style radio serial with a band-composed musical score -- in a cardboard double-CD package with artwork that reinforces the band's trademark eyeball, all for $14.99. The catch? It contains two blank CDs so that the five episodes, which will be released sequentially during a 10-week period, can be burned after the last one becomes available. A unique code for each package allows users to unlock the subscription at riverofcrime.comexternal link. The package is exclusively available at Virgin Megastore locations in the brick-and-mortar world and at idealcopy.com in cyberspace. A prerecorded version of the project is planned for wider release next year. The episodes also can be downloaded individually as they are released at all digital music stores. Each episode is priced at $1.99.
Cordless and the Residents created a unique vehicle to issue "River of Crime" because they wanted to make it available on an episodic, subscription basis.
"It is a bit wacky, but so are the Residents," Cordless president Jason Fiber says. "The Residents are always pushing the limits, whether it's music, art or technology."Customers purchasing the limited-edition digital subscription will also receive digital extras like ringtones and mobile wallpaper as well as materials that can be burned onto the blank CD-Rs, including alternate versions of the "River of Crime" artwork, scripts and instrumental soundtrack elements. And Fiber asks, "How can a digital-only release be (positioned) as a collectible? Residents fans are collectors, and this gives them something
tangible to add to their collection." Through the effort Cordless, Warner Music Group's e-label, can help
brick-and-mortar stores sell digital product in physical form.
"It is an experiment, but we think it is something that is relatively easy to understand," Fiber says. The package comes with a red sticker on the cover warning that it contains blank media and telling buyers not to burn "River of Crime" until all episodes are retrieved. Inside the package is an instruction card. On the other hand, Fiber says it may also be confusing. If the helpline rings off the hook, he says he'll know the effort was too ambitious.