I've said for a while (to myself, and the odd person who listens) that I think the future of an album promotion is with free giveaway downloads, and not the traditional single). In layman's terms, giving away an albums lead single as a free download
It already happens in the alternative scene in the US - SubPop I think giveaway free downloads of their singles. But basically it seems what Coldplay have just done is the perfect way to play people a new direction or similar
The problem in the UK is that the public perception is completely dominated by the Singles Chart. Now if that weren't the case.... everything would be a little more interesting. Coldplay don't have to worry about scoring a number 1 single if they have a number 1 album (or when they can prove 600000 people downloaded one track in 24 hours), but at the minute, pretty everyone else has to worry about chart placings, and porring money down a blackhole of production and marketing
For a discerning artist of today, the hear and now, singles to promote albums is pretty much a fruitless cause. We're moving towards a US model where 'lead' tracks are serviced to press/radio/TV. But that's in the US and that's in the alternative 'scene', and the Pop markets still go full on for Billboard placings
The problem in this country is that the industry isn't big enough to support a self-sustaining alternative side to the industry. It's an interesting quandry, that hopefully gets resolved in the positive. It may create a glass ceiling of achievement away from the pop/entertainment side of the industry, which I think is a good thing. Anyway, maybe the complete devalueing of individual tracks will dramatically improve the value of the album 'package'