EMI teams up with Microsoft to sell music on the Net

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The Independent Online

EMI and Microsoft are linking up to offer secure digital downloads of music from more than 80 artists, ranging from Frank Sinatra and The Smashing Pumpkins to Less Than Jake and Bonnie Raitt.

EMI and Microsoft are linking up to offer secure digital downloads of music from more than 80 artists, ranging from Frank Sinatra and The Smashing Pumpkins to Less Than Jake and Bonnie Raitt.

EMI will become the first major music company, beginning today, to sell a large selection of recordings online when it releases more than 100 albums and 40 singles that fans will be able to download. Richard Cottrell, president of EMI Music Distribution, said: "EMI is the first major record label to release this volume of songs for digital download. Consumers will be able to find the music through all the normal retail websites. We're very much about making this simple for users."

Offering 1970s acts like Pink Floyd and Grand Funk Railroad in cyberspace is seen by some industry experts as a long-shot bid to woo fans away from Napster, the popular song-swapping service. The California-based Web company has amassed over 20 million registered users, but is struggling under litigation from the Recording Industry Association of America, which represents big record companies, including EMI.

Online music providers like Napster and MP3.com provide access to music through MP3 technology, a compression format that turns music on compact discs into small computer files. Record companies have sued for copyright infringement because MP3 enables distribution of music without copyright protection or royalty payment.

EMI will release its trial selection in the secure Windows Media format to coincide with the release of Microsoft's Windows Media Player 7.0. The UK recording group's music will also be available in the future in software company Liquid Audio's secure format. Liquid Audio and two other companies, Supertracks and Amplified, are to provide the infrastructure for retailers to sell the music online.

EMI will sell the music to retailers at similar wholesale price structures used for physical compact discs, Mr Cottrell said. "It's up to the retailers to determine the price they want to charge to online consumers."

But analysts questioned whether consumers would embrace EMI's move. Eric Scheirer at Forrester Research, said: "The immediate question ... is if it will hold a candle to Napster?" EMI stock closed up 9.5p at 660.5p.

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