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Gabriel, Eno lead digital charge

Tech-savvy twosome create musician's org

CANNES — Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno unveiled an artists’ manifesto for the digital age Monday in conjunction with On Demand Distribution’s announcement of a digital jukebox application dubbed Sonic Selector.

The technologically astute musicians have created Mudda — Magnificent Union of Digitally Downloading Artists — to “bring artists higher up on the food chain” and allow them to exert more creative control, get paid fairly and quickly and to bring partnership to the music business, Gabriel said at the Palais.

“Most of the conversation about digital downloading is about the business, and artists need to see a whole new way of what they can do and what they can release,” said Eno. “We need to create an alliance of artists to talk before the rules get written (without them). Bringing together the creative side and the business side will come up with a different result than if we let either side do it themselves.”

Backing up the former Roxy Music keyboardist, producer and ambient pioneer, Gabriel said, “Music could be a living thing that is always in transition. An artist could release online all the versions of a song, making it about selling a process rather than a product.”

Eno and Gabriel are notorious for taking extensive amounts of time between CD releases, and the intermittent release of music creates a “more intimate conversation between the artist and the people who listen (to their work),” Eno noted. He might release works-in-progress, charging only a pittance and then going for the big bucks when releasing the finished work.

Gabriel and Charles Grimsdale founded OD2 five years ago. On Monday they announced that the second version of OD2’s software, Sonic Selector, is being beta-tested for a March release.

Grimsdale said they hope Sonic Selector, a plug-in for Windows Media Player that creates a digital store, generates a “de facto music service for Windows.”

OD2 announced Coca-Cola as its first partner and will continue to add more partnerships upon its release. It is the only subscription service in Europe, he said, noting it is available in 11 countries via services (Freeserve, etc.), portals (MSN) and merchants (HMV).

Downloads will go for, on average, S1.39 ($1.73). Apparently, artists in control of their works will be able to set their own prices. Benefit of the system, Grimsdale and Gabriel pointed out, will be the ability to filter music according to an individual’s taste.

“The is the opportunity to level the playing field for artists,” Gabriel said.

Proving that cliched Cannes scenes don’t need the film festival to occur, Gabriel and Eno entered the room of the press conference quietly and almost unnoticed. Once they stepped outside into the rain where photographers were waiting, the screaming and panicked shouts began.

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