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Monday, 20 August, 2001, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Gabriel launches net music subscriptions
Womad digital channel
Users get 40 tracks per month for 5
Peter Gabriel's record label has launched a subscription service for internet music downloads before any of the major labels.

Real World, which gives fans a monthly package of 40 tracks for 5, has beaten the major labels to ask fans to pay for digital access to their music.

I am always happy to see David come home ahead of Goliath

Peter Gabriel
Former Genesis star Gabriel is also co-founder of OD2, the company that has developed the technology behind the service, called WebAudioNet.

Some of the biggest independent record companies in the country will use the same technology to launch similar services in September.

Already signed up are Telstar, home of Craig David and Mis-teeq, plus Edel, whose artists include Baha Men and Azzido da Bass - as well as independent music group the Association of Independent Music (Aim).

The Real World service, which also involves the Womad organisation, began on Monday.

Craig David
Craig David will join the service next month
Subscribers will choose 40 tracks per month from Real World's catalogue or be sent Womad's monthly pick of 40 tracks.

The tracks will expire and be deleted after one month, but users will be given the option to buy a permanent digital copy of a track or a whole album.

Gabriel, whose solo hits include Sledgehammer and Don't Give Up, said the service would give a lot of people access to more new music.

"The internet is allowing small, independent and minority interest music makers to be on a level playing field with the big guys," he said.

"I am always happy to see David come home ahead of Goliath."

Artists on Real World's roster include Afro-Celt Sound System, Temple Of Sound, Telek, Joseph Arthur and The Blind Boys Of Alabama.

Aim, which represents the labels of artists including Stereophonics, Tom Jones, Bjork and The Charlatans, is currently negotiating to decide who will appear on a similar service from September.

Afro-Celt Sound System
Real World's roster includes Afro-Celt Sound System
Subscription services were developed to stop programmes like Napster letting fans downloading music without paying any royalties to the record labels, songwriters or musicians.

Aim's head of new technology Gavin Robertson says he "deeply hopes" the WebAudioNet technology marks the beginning of a new era for digital music.

It could provide a serious rival for the major labels' services, which are due to launch later this year, he says.

"Whichever one really gets it right willl be the one that really takes off.

"A lot of that obviously has to do with the content, and it has to do with the relationship with the consumer."


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