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Amazon, Pepsi Team For Super Bowl MP3 Giveaway

Amazon's found a new partner in its quest to overtake iTunes in the digital-music arena.

Pepsi-Cola and the Internet's largest retailer have teamed up in a promotion to give away as many as 1 billion songs from Amazon MP3, the online music store launched in September. Unlike iTunes, the Amazon MP3 store only sells songs free of digital rights management (DRM) software.

The companies will debut the Pepsi Stuff promotion during the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 3, although customers who purchase Pepsi products will be able to redeem points beginning Feb. 1.

"MP3 music is the future of the industry and Pepsi Stuff is an accelerator," Danny Socolof, president of Las Vegas-based MEGA, Inc., the company that is managing the promotion, said in a statement.

"It will help more people discover legal DRM-free music downloading sooner than they might normally have. It's also likely to draw in music fans who are not as familiar with digital downloading, which can help build a healthy future for the music business," Socolof said.

The announcement comes as the record companies' latest snub to Apple's iTunes. On Friday, Sony BMG followed the lead of the other major labels with the announcement that it would license its DRM-free catalog to Amazon. Of the four, only EMI has reached a similar agreement with iTunes.

Sony, EMI and Warner Music Group are all participating in the Pepsi Stuff promotion, along with tens of thousands of smaller labels. Universal Music Group is not participating in the promotion.

What a difference a few years can make. After all, during the 2004 Super Bowl, Pepsi launched a very similar MP3 cross-promotion with the then-fledgling iTunes. Now that Apple has all but cornered the digital-music market, the record companies have thrown their collective weight behind Amazon in the hopes of regaining some control over how music is sold and distributed online.

If the labels see the licensing of their DRM-free catalogs to Amazon as their ace in the hole, that could break Apple's stranglehold on the industry, they would certainly be pleased with Pepsi's explanation for choosing Amazon for this year's promotion.

"Amazon is the only site that offers 100 percent of their music catalog in the DRM-free MP3 format, and that includes music from the major and independent labels," Pepsi spokeswoman Nicole Bradley wrote in an e-mail to InternetNews.com. "Their service allows us to reward consumers with free music downloads that are playable on virtually any portable device."

Pepsi Stuff will be a much larger affair than the MP3 giveaway of 2004 – the company said it's the biggest promotion it has ever run.

Four billion bottle caps and product wrappings will contain Pepsi Stuff points, which customers can apply to music downloads from Amazon MP3, or other merchandise from Amazon.com. Five bottle caps will be good for one free download.