Warner cues music for purchase on ‘Net

First downloads slated for November

NEW YORK — In one of the biggest pushes yet by a major label into the contentious online music-delivery market, Warner Music Group said Monday it will make more than 1,000 albums, plus a number of online-only singles, available for purchase on the ‘Net over the next several months.

The first downloads, to be available by November, will be sold through several online retail vendors.

They will include several singles that are already available offline, as well as new ‘Net-only tracks by such Warners artists as Paul Simon, Collective Soul and Matchbox Twenty.

Several months later, the full roster of 1,000-plus albums, including works by R.E.M., Madonna, Bjork and Fleetwood Mac, will be available.

“We think there’s a whole new world out there in download business that will serve the industry very well,” Warner Music executive VP Paul Vidich told Daily Variety.

Among the advantages of the online format will be the ability to promote works by smaller artists that might not be financially viable through traditional channels, Vidich added.

Wal of sound

WalMart.com, the online presence of the national mega-retailer, has signed on to offer Warner’s downloads among its music offerings, beginning in the first quarter of next year.

Amazon.com has also expressed support for the Warner strategy but has not yet signed on to distribute the label’s music on its site.

Vidich said Warner is also in talks with about a half-dozen other e-tailers to distribute its digital wares.

Warner also announced that it is working with RealNetworks to develop a platform-independent format to make its downloads available through different media players.

The move follows similar but not-quite-so-ambitious efforts from several of the other four majors to make music available for direct digital download.

In July, EMI partnered with Microsoft Corp. to offer roughly 100 albums in the Windows Media format, downloadable at WindowsMedia.com.

Universal Music Group said Aug. 1 that it would begin trials on a technology called Bluematter that allows secure digital downloads of music, along with digitized liner notes, photos, and other supplementary material.

All five labels have stepped up their efforts to get into the online music download business over the past several months, as the traffic to controversial free file-sharing services such as Napster and Gnutella has ballooned.

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