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LONDON (Billboard) - Bloc Party fans expecting a routine Web chat with their heroes got more than they bargained for August 18, when the U.K. alt-rock band announced that its new album, "Intimacy," would be available for download in just 60 hours' time.
"They were very freaked out. It was really funny," frontman Kele Okereke said.
Bloc Party's London-based independent label, Wichita Recordings, could not be reached for comment, but Okereke joked that the company's executives had a similar initial reaction to the rush release, before adding that they were "really into this idea, just as much as we were."
The band also has the backing of Universal Music Group -- Wichita has a joint-venture marketing agreement with the major's V2 label for the album and an international licensing agreement with the Cooperative Music collective, which is financially supported by UMG. The advance download concept has also been "embraced completely" by the band's U.S. label, Atlantic, according to Okereke.
"Intimacy," the band's third album, became available August 21 exclusively from blocparty.com. Options include an MP3 download available for $10 in North America or 5 euros in the rest of the world and a pre-order of the CD with bonus tracks for $20 or 10 euros, which includes the free download. The pre-order is available in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Okereke denied that the tactic was about "foxing the critics" and downplayed suggestions in a press release that the move was in response to the leak of Bloc Party's 2007 album "A Weekend in the City," which he said did not markedly affect sales. That album has sold 148,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Instead, the band has taken inspiration from Radiohead. "We finished it a few months ago and we thought, 'Why do we need to sit on it for six months after it's done?"' Okereke said. "It seems that post-'In Rainbows' there are no rules about this sort of thing anymore."