Napster’s new AIM

Tune deal inked with Brit indie label org

Napster has cut a deal with U.K.-based indie label org the Assn. of Independent Music (AIM) that gives the file-swapper access to the music of several hundred independent labels in the U.K. and Europe for use on its yet-to-be-unveiled next-generation service.

Non-exclusive pact covers AIM’s 500-strong indie label constituency, including Beggars Group, XL, V2 and MoWax. On offer will be tracks by electronica vet Moby, metallers Slipknot, songwriter Badly Drawn Boy and superstar DJ Paul Oakenfold, among others.

In addition, the AIM-negotiated deal gives Napster clearance to use works released by the 1,500 label-members of AIM sister org the Independent Music Companies Assn. (Impala), which reps such Europe-based imprints as Play It Again Sam, Roadrunner and Epitaph, as well as national trade orgs in France, Germany and Sweden.

Perfect fit

Martin Mills, chairman of stalwart U.K. indie and AIM member Beggars Group, said Napster’s peer-to-peer file-sharing model, which has generated controversy and litigation from the five U.S. major distribs, dovetails perfectly with the way in which independents already market their wares.

“The great thing about Napster is it is a modern version of word-of-mouth,” said Mills at a conference to announce the deal. “The kind of fan-to-fan community that used to happen in record stores or people’s bedrooms happens now on Napster; it gets people talking to one another.”

The negotiations, which began in November, are contingent upon Napster’s ability to successfully launch a service that can secure its content and compensate copyright holders. In the conference, Napster interim chief exec Hank Barry reiterated that the service would be up and running “sometime this summer.”

Licenses needed

Napster’s use of music from AIM and Impala members also depends on whether the Netco can get licenses from the publishers who own copyrights to the underlying compositions of the tracks (excluding those already owned by member labels, which are included in Tuesday’s deal).

AIM deal follows Napster’s announcement in April that it inked a licensing pact with MusicNet, a subscription-based music distribution service backed by three of the majors, BMG Entertainment, EMI Group and Warner Music. The latter two companies stressed, however, that they will release no content on the new system until it is proven to be secure and to pay rights holders.

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