Warner, RioPort put 30,000 tracks online

Users also allowed to burn CDs, perform digital transfers

Warner Music Group has cut a deal with music tech firm RioPort to offer more than 30,000 digital singles as a la carte downloads, starting at 99 cents per track, in a bid to kickstart the nascent online music market.

Warner will make the tracks available this month in the U.S. and Canada via RioPort’s distribution infrastructure. In a marked step forward for WMG’s online efforts, label also will allow users to burn the tracks to CDs or transfer them to portable devices.

Offering will include work from WMG acts Green Day, Enya, Linkin Park and Sugar Ray.

RioPort, an application service provider, will handle the online sales transactions on a non-exclusive basis. The actual sales will be made via RioPort’s retailing partners, which include BestBuy.com, MTV.com and Musicland.

The Warner/RioPort deal follows Universal Music Group’s groundbreaking download scheme unveiled in July. The major said it will sell roughly 1,000 albums worth of material online in the unprotected MP3 format through its Emusic division.

Each initiative is a significant step toward fulfilling the long-held consumer demand for fully portable digital music as a viable alternative to free file-swapping sites like Kazaa and Morpheus.

The labels have been pressing out into cyberspace while continuing to refine their collaborative online distribution. Both MusicNet (backed by AOL Time Warner, EMI and Bertelsmann) and Pressplay (supported by Vivendi Universal and Sony) promise expanded services and repertoire by the end of the year.

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