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R.E.M. launching album on social networking site

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NEW YORK (Billboard) - Forget the traditional radio premiere: R.E.M.'s new album, "Accelerate," is set to debut on the social networking application iLike.

The roll-out, the first of its kind for a major act, will allow fans to stream and share "Accelerate" in its entirety beginning March 24, a week ahead of the album's April 1 U.S. release date.

"It was one of those ideas that was presented to us and it seemed like a good one so we ran for it," R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe told Billboard.com.

He also noted that the way people embrace music "has certainly changed in the last 5 or 10 years. I think you can either go with it or sit back and watch it happen, and I would rather be out on the field than in the bleachers."

Accompanied by an exclusive video of the band talking about the album, the iLike launch will make the 11-song set freely available to anyone using iLike.com, Facebook, iTunes or any of the other social networks and sites that offer an iLike application for their platforms.

The iLike premiere of "Accelerate" is R.E.M.'s latest example of using direct-to-listener online initiatives to present their music. The band recently launched a Web site of raw footage and invited visitors to edit their own video for the album's first single, "Supernatural Superserious." The trio has also been doling out downloadable glimpses of the new material one day at a time via Ninetynights.com.

R.E.M. played its first show of the year last week in Florida at the Langerado festival. Aside from mixing old favorites with a large sampling from "Accelerate," Stipe revealed his presidential candidate of choice by sporting a Barack Obama t-shirt.

Copyright © 2008 Reuters Limited.

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