Rock singer Peter Gabriel's record company launched a subscription service for internet music downloads yesterday, beating major labels in the race to ask fans to pay for digital access to music.
The service, Womad Digital Channel, will give fans a monthly package of 40 tracks for £5.
"I'm always happy to see David come home ahead of Goliath," said Gabriel, the solo artist and former Genesis singer. "This will allow a lot of people access to new music."
Gabriel's Real World Records is joined in the venture by Womad, the company renowned for bringing world music to millions at festivals around the globe, and digital music distribution service OD2, co-founded by Gabriel in 1999.
Also signed up for the service is Telstar, home of R&B star Craig David and Mis-teeq, plus Germany's Edel, whose catalogue includes rock, pop, jazz, and classical music.
The service was developed to stop fans downloading music without paying royalties to the record labels, songwriters or artists – notably through the free internet music-swap service Napster and similar sites.
The tracks will play only on the subscriber's computer, including portable devices, and will not be transferable.
The tracks will expire and be deleted after a month but users will be given the option to buy a permanent digital copy of a track or a whole album.