RealTime IT News

All the Music, All the Time

The beat goes on in the music business as Universal Music Group, in a nod to the inevitable, said it would make 43,000 music tracks available for consumers to download via a variety of retail outlets and music Web sites.

The move follows a somewhat similar recent decision by EMI Recorded Music, and it's clear that the Internet has changed the music business forever.

Universal, which claims to be the largest of the Big Five record labels, said that digital downloads will be available through more than 25 retailers and music sites, including Best Buy, Circuit City, MP3.com, Rolling Stone, Tower Records, FYE.com and others.

Consumers can purchase, burn to a CD and/or transfer songs to portable devices for 99 cents per individual track and $9.99 per album, Universal said.

"This is a direct blow to the peer-to-peer services by providing consumers with a cheap and easy way to get a trusted file," P.J. McNealy, an analyst with GartnerG2, told Reuters.

"This is a watershed moment," said Larry Kenswil, president of Universal Music Group, eLabs. "Universal is committed to making every recording it controls available for Internet distribution. We have listened to the public, and we are offering the music that people want at a reasonable price that fairly compensates the artists (and) songwriters ... There is nothing that can justify resorting to illegal services to get UMG music on the Internet."

Music industry sales, especially online sales, have been seriously eroded by the rise of free, unauthorized peer-to-peer services such as Morpheus and Kazaa, which followed the late Napster.

Both the online services Pressplay and MusicNet now have deals that give them licenses to distribute content from all five major labels, and sales agreements are either in place or in the works.

EMI, meanwhile, has granted nine online music services the right to sell its digital singles and the services are expected to let customers burn CDS or use portable digital players Each service will determine the price consumers pay for downloads and burning. That deal, which goes into effect Dec. 1, uncorks the digital rights to tens of thousands of songs.

Using technology from Liquid Audio, Universal said music fans can now buy tracks from its digital catalog, including songs from such artists as Eminem, Diana Krall, Jay-Z, Nelly, Shaggy, Shania Twain, Sheryl Crow and U2. The Windows Media format is also supported.

A complete list of sites selling UMG a la carte downloads is available here. Universal Muic Group is a unit of a unit of Vivendi Universal .

Financial terms of the Universal deal with Redwood City, Calif.-based Liquid Audio were not disclosed, but Liquid Audio now claims to have the largest catalog of secure digital music available with more than 400,000 tracks from 17,000 artists and 1,800 record labels.

Elsewhere, computer maker Gateway has begun shipping all its consumer desktop PCs with Gateway Rhapsody installed. Gateway Rhapsody is a music subscription service ($9.95 a month) powered by streaming music service Listen.com. Selected tracks can be burned on custom CDs for 99 cents per track.