Site to offer music titles to paying subscribers

BERLIN — Taking heed of company topper Thomas Middelhoff’s call for the music industry to embrace the Internet, Bertelsmann label BMG will offer music downloads, although at a cost.

Label is launching its new Musicdownload24 project next month, in cooperation with Digital World Services and Lycos Europe.

Unveiled at Popkomm, Cologne’s annual international music confab, Musicdownload24 will eventually offer registered users a total of 300 tracks. Current titles from Guano Apes, HIM and Euro pop band the Kelly Family are among the initial 100 that will be listed on the German Web site In addition to current catalog fare, previously unreleased songs and remixes will be available.

In order to compete with free-download sites like Napster, BMG is boasting a higher-quality format, Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), which can be downloaded at the same speed as MP3 but offers better sound. In addition, Musicdownload24 buyers will also get album cover art and text to go along with their digital tracks.

According to BMG head Thomas Stein, it will take awhile for the ‘Net initiative to get moving, but he predicts the company will be pulling in decent revenues in five to 10 years.

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