Plus, your chance to download new Nine Inch Nails video...

Rage Against The Machine‘s announcement that they will preview two tracks from their forthcoming new album ‘The Battle Of Los Angeles next month through RealNetworks‘ [url=]site highlights not only the growing importance of the power of downloads as a promotional tool but also the increasingly confusing plethora of formats out there.

‘Guerilla Radio’ and ‘Testify’ – the two new tracks – will be available in the Real Jukebox format from early October, a full month before the album is actually released on November 2. As a bonus, when the album is released, purchasers will then be able to link back to the Real site and then download an exclusive non-album track.

Although previously known as a company at the forefront of streaming media, RealJukebox – launched earlier this year – has become the most popular digital music system, supporting as it does Wave files – that’s the format used for music on audio CDs – MP3 files and Real Media files, all of which can deliver near-CD quality music on computer desktops. The files can also be loaded into portable players, sent via email or burned onto CD.

RealJukebox can also support MP3 and Wav files and other competitors – Liquid Audio and Microsoft’s Audio format – are all fighting over what could be potentially be the most lucrative market since the advent of the CD and nobody wants to be the 8 Track cassette or the Betamax video. Hence, many of the formats support the others.

The major labels have backed a secure downloads system that keeps a tighter control on what happens to music files once they’re downloaded; they can’t be passed on by e mail or burned onto CDs or other media, with EMI breaking ranks and signing a deal with Liquid Audio. But while they wait and see, the bandwagon seems to be moving on without them.

And downloadable music is only the beginning; on Friday, RealNetworks announced that they would be making Nine Inch Nails‘We’re In This Together’ – first single from NIN‘s ‘The Fragile’ and the first full length music video by a major artist to be available for download. You can get it from the [url=]Nine Inch Nails website

“Today’s announcement demonstrates a huge new step for the distribution and enjoyment of music videos,” said RealNetworks Vice President Dave Richards. “More than 10 million RealJukebox users can now download, organize and play high quality music videos whenever they want on their PCs.”

Despite the big talk about embracing downloadable music, most record companies still shy clear of downloadable files, unable to quite get their heads around the idea of giving something away for free, even if it can bring big returns as a tool to whet people’s attitudes to buy the album. Even [url=]Creation – whose MD Alan McGee was almost an outspoken prophet of the MP3 digital download revolution a year ago – still only have streamed music on their site.

Rage are just one of a growing band or artists who are using the net as a promo tool, joining others like Public Enemy and David Bowie who have enthusiastically jumped in head first, seeing it as a way of empowering them to keep more control over their music and the profits.