With Sony Music's entry into the downloadable-music market, three of the world's five major
record companies expect to distribute music online by the end of the year.
Sony -- home to such artists as Lauryn Hill, Pearl Jam and the Dixie
Chicks -- unveiled plans Wednesday (May 12) to begin selling singles by
download this summer, joining Universal Music Group, which announced its
own digital-distribution plans last week. BMG, another of the big-five
music corporations, also intend to have music online for promotion and
purchase by year's end, according to Billboard.
"I think there will be people out there more and more that would prefer to just get [music] in
that digital kind of format rather than having a physical copy of a CD," Offspring singer Dexter
Holland said before the announcement was made. The Offspring, who had a recent hit with
(RealAudio excerpt), record for Sony's Columbia label.
Sony will choose songs for digital distribution from its roster of current commercial singles
beginning this summer, senior vice president Fred Ehrlich said. Prices will be the same as CD
singles cost in stores -- about $3 to $4 -- he said.
The company will use Microsoft's new Windows Media 4.0 technology.
Ehrlich would not discuss which artists would take part in the downloading program. He said
Sony has no designs to sell full albums by download until more people have broadband
access to the Internet, which makes faster downloads possible.
Universal Music Group has said it will distribute music over the Internet
beginning in late summer or early fall using InterTrust's copy-protection
technology. Billboard and the Wall Street Journal have reported that BMG,
another of the "Big Five" music corporations, may join UMG in the effort.
In addition, the five major labels -- which also include Time Warner and EMI -- have
agreed to participate in IBM's pilot program to sell music to cable-modem subscribers in San
A coalition of music and technology companies is developing copy-protection standards for
portable digital-music players by the end of June, and hopes to have compliant devices in
stores by the holiday season.
"It was important for us to put content in the marketplace" to take advantage of the emerging
player industry, Ehrlich said.
Music and technology analyst Mark Hardie praised the announcement for bringing another
major music conglomerate to the online market. But he was disappointed the plan does not
yet involve specific artists, and that it won't include music exclusive to the Net.
"It lacked depth," he said.