Launch New Music Download Service

By | July 22, 2003 at 12:00 AM

A new Internet music download site for PCs debuting Tuesday boasts the cheapest per-song rates yet but many of the same restrictions on copying that have stymied wider use of other music services.

Although online retailer will offer a catalog of more than 300,000 songs from the five major record labels, users of the service will not necessarily have the freedom afforded customers of Apple Inc.’s iTunes service to transfer the music purchased to multiple computers and portable devices, or to burn it to compact discs.

BuyMusic hopes to score the sort of attention that helped drive sales for Apple Computer’s iTunes Music Store since its launch April 28.

BuyMusic founder Scott Blum called Apple CEO Steve Jobs “a visionary, but he’s on the wrong platform.” While Apple users constitute about 3 percent of the personal computer market, BuyMusic is targeting the 97 percent of people with PCs.

BuyMusic, which is based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., will vie for a share of that market with a handful of online music subscription services, including pressplay, Rhapsody, MusicNow and MusicNet, which have not managed to cull substantial customer traffic from the free file-sharing networks.

The service has about 100,000 more songs than iTunes but comparable to pressplay, which was acquired by Roxio and is expected to undergo a relaunch later this year under the Napster brand.

BuyMusic is charging 70 cents for individual song downloads – 9 cents lower than MusicNow, which previously had the lowest per song price. It’s also undercutting competitors’ price for a full album download at $7.95. The iTunes’ service charges $9.99 for most full albums.

BuyMusic downloads are in Microsoft’s Windows Media format.

Still, BuyMusic suffers from some of the same licensing drawbacks that the other PC-based digital music retailers have.

Jobs secured uniform licensing deals from all the record companies that allow all iTunes songs to be burned onto CD an unlimited amount of times, save for a restriction for making multiple CDs with the exact song lists. All songs on iTunes can also be transferred to up to three different computers and to the iPod, a portable digital music player.

Blum was not able to obtain uniform licensing rights from the record labels and artists. As a result, different songs on BuyMusic have different restrictions for how often, if at all, they may be burned onto CDs or copied to other PCs or portable music devices.

By year’s end, BuyMusic and the other PC-based digital music retailers are expected to face a competing PC version of iTunes, which has had more than 6.5 million songs downloaded to date.

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