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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
MusicNet to launch 'in 60 days'
Music downloader
The industry wants to create its own music download services
MusicNet, the music industry's self-proclaimed alternative to Napster, has said it aims to go live within 60 days.

The service provided partners and distributors RealNetworks and AOL with its technology on Thursday, moving one step closer to launch.

MusicNet is also the industry's attempt to attract people away from the unofficial music download services which have sprung up since Napster's decision to develop a paid-for service.

Free and unlimited is a difficult thing to compete with

Richard Wolpert, MusicNet
It was set up by RealNetworks and AOL Time Warner, along with the music "majors" EMI, BMG and the big independent company Zomba.

MusicNet is one of two online services backed by the major music companies which will launch within the next few months.

The other, Pressplay, jointly owned by Vivendi-Universal and Sony, expects to launch in the last quarter of the year.

But many analysts are still unconvinced about the readiness of the market to pay for music downloads.

Consumer price

Richard Wolpert, MusicNet's strategic advisor, said at Thursday's launch: "Free and unlimited is a difficult thing to compete with. However, I think we are offering things that consumers will like."

Mr Wolpert said that MusicNet had suggested a consumer price of $10 per month for 50 downloads and 50 streams of music - but the service's distributors would ultimately set their own prices and might combine music with other features in subscription bundles.

Subscribers would be able to choose from about 100,000 tracks from the labels behind MusicNet - acts ranging from Janet Jackson to the Dave Matthews Band.

But availability of the tracks still depends on a satisfactory agreement between MusicNet and the music publishers who hold the song copyrights.

'Publishing issues'

Mr Wolpert was optimistic about this in the light of the agreement recently reached between the US National Music Publishers Association and Napster over past copyright infringements.

"We do not believe the publishing issues will stop us from launching," he said.

But analyst PJ McNealy cast doubt on the market's readiness for the model.

"I think it will be a great way to sample, but the lack of portability will drive people to buy CDs.

"You're asking people to pay $120 a year for this subscription on top of the $90 the average consumer annually spends buying CDs and in addition to paying a fee for Pressplay.

"They're trying to get consumers to open their wallets in 2002 and that's a major hurdle," said Mr McNealy.

Mr Wolpert said recently that he did not expect a large subscriber base at the outset. "We don't expect significant numbers in the first 12 months - it's not going to be a million people," he said.

See also:

10 Sep 01 | New Media
Online music-swapping rocks
06 Aug 01 | New Media
Online music bill 'meets disapproval'
31 Jul 01 | New Media
Negotiators join web royalty row
24 Jul 01 | New Media
AOL launches online music services
24 Jul 01 | New Media
New boss for Napster
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