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Friday, June 11, 1999 Published at 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK

Business: The Company File

Online music goes global

Music companies are desperate to market their biggest assets online

BMG Entertainment and Universal Music have become the latest big-hitting media companies to stake a claim to a slice of the burgeoning global online music market.

They say their US Internet sales venture,, will be extended into other international markets by the end of this year.

Direct selling outside the US

The two companies - owned by German media giant Bertelsman and Canadian group Seagram - launched earlier in the year to supply albums and singles direct to US consumers.

[ image: Whitney Houston] Whitney Houston
The first international sites are expected to open in larger European markets, such as the UK, Germany and France, before Christmas.

They are to be followed by launches in Asia and South America.

The two companies' extensive lists of recording artists includes Texas, Whitney Houston, Elton John, Sheryl Crow, Britney Spears, the Cranberries, U2 and Shania Twain.

Music groups rush into online market

On Thursday, EMI announced a licensing agreement with another online music distributor,

The deal gives EMI a new outlet for its huge back-catalogue, while also preparing the company to take advantage of digital downloading direct to the customer, once a secure industry standard technology has been agreed.

Sony recently revealed proposals to work with Microsoft on marketing music online.

Free downloads

The Internet retailer,, is also expanding its presence in the music market with the introduction of a separate free download page on its website.

On Tuesday, it began offering 25 songs from 14 artists for customers to sample.

Amazon's general manager of music, Jennifer Cast, said: "Free downloads are a great way for listeners to discover new music, and a superb way to promote artists and their CDs."

The current selection includes singers Lyle Lovett, Sarah McLachlan and Randy Newman, and rappers Public Enemy.

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