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Realnetworks pacts for U Music’s song library

'Alliance augments ability to reach consumers,' Bronfman Jr. sez

In its largest coup of new offerings, online music provider Realnetworks has snagged access to Universal Music Group’s song library.

The pact will be announced today during the keynote address given by Realnetworks founder Rob Glaser as part of this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Under the terms of the deal, Realnetworks’ 20 million registered users will be able to start downloading UMG music (in a secured format designed to protect artists’ rights) by the second quarter of this year.

Currently, via the company’s Realjukebox, Netizens can play, record, organize and search for music, now expanded to include UMG’s vault of tunes. Not all of UMG’s 1 million tracks will be available to download at once, but the pool will increase reflecting consumer response.

The partnership between the two companies is a significant pat on the back for digitally distributed music, which many music companies have failed to embrace out of fear that artists’ work can easily be ripped-off over the ‘Net.

“By partnering with Realnetworks, Universal is taking another important step in achieving the secure delivery of digital music,” Seagram Company prexy and CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. said. “This alliance augments our ability to reach music consumers and it allows us to provide more music to more people.”

Similarly, “By building on the broad consumer base of more than 20 million Realjukebox users as well as the enormous fan-base enjoyed by UMG’s artists, this agreement will have profound and broad impact on the digital music distribution market,” Realnetworks’ Glaser said.

UMG has been mulling over serving up its music over the ‘Net for some time now.

“We’ve been saying for years that online music distribution will lead to a greater expansion of the music business,” explained Larry Kenswil, UMG prexy of e-commerce and advanced technology.

“But we’ve been waiting until a rights management system was in place … and (by pacting with Realnetworks) we’re now putting our money where our mouth is,” Kenswil added.

Realjukebox, which launched last May and is free to download, supports other secure formats — in addition to the one supported by UMG — including IBM’s Electronic Music Management System, AT&T’s A2B and Liquid Audio.

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