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EMI pours on liquid

Conglom selects firm to make music downloadable

Preparing for a time in the not-too-distant future when Internet users will digitally download its artists’ music, EMI Recorded Music has tapped Liquid Audio to encode the music company’s extensive library.

As part of the agreement, EMI has also received shares in Liquid Audio.

The move follows the conglom’s recent link with Musicmaker.com. It obtained a stake in the operation through Musicmaker, which it will use to make the music of many EMI acts available for compilation albums (Daily Variety, June 15).

The preparation of EMI’s material for secure digital download by Liquid Audio marks the latest step in EMI’s Internet strategy.

Inking pacts

It also demonstrates that the firm, which is largely playing catch-up with competitors, is on a alliance-inking fast track.

Under the terms of the deal, Liquid Audio will make available the software and services that will enable EMI to promote and sell its music library as digital downloads.

“The fact that we’re digitizing virtually all our library shows EMI is really putting the energy behind digital distribution,” Jay Samit, EMI’s New Media chief, told Daily Variety. “We are making sure our products will be available when the time comes.”

Samit said he expects music from some EMI artists to be available by the fourth quarter.

Awaiting decision

Although Liquid Audio is digitizing EMI’s library, EMI is not necessarily making Liquid Audio its exclusive or preferred format. EMI will decide which technology to utilize when it evaluates the efforts of the Secure Digital Music Initiative, a consortium of music, software and hardware firms that are selecting the superior technology to be adopted by the industry.

The deal also doesn’t portend that all of the conglom’s music will be approved for downloading.

EMI execs are in the process of obtaining clearances from rights holders of artists’ music so that the tunes may be made available for digital distribution.

Insiders said Liquid Audio was selected because the firm is capable of quickly digitizing large quantities of music.

Digital delivery via Liquid Audio’s Liquid Player technology is used by more than 1,300 musicians, 300 record labels and 200 music Web sites, according to Gerry Kearby, CEO of Liquid Audio.

“This agreement with Liquid Audio … represents another important step in EMI’s Internet strategy,” said Ken Berry, prexy of EMI Recorded Music. While, for the major labels, the ‘Net is still a largely promotional vehicle, Berry predicted that making music available to “the millions of fans online (will) generate additional income.”

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