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Wednesday, August 19, 1998 Published at 17:52 GMT 18:52 UK


Online CD sales battle hots up in Europe

Mail order online CD sales are bigger business than music downloads

By Internet correspondent Chris Nuttall
Europe is soaring to the top of the popularity charts with online CD retailers.

On Wednesday, Tower Records said it was setting up a UK-based global distribution service for music, videos and books ordered over the Internet.

The announcement came a day after CDnow, the world's leading online music store with 250,000 items on offer, launched a European service.

The moves represent stiff competition for indigenous companies such as Oxfordshire-based iMVS, which has 180,000 titles and a strong UK flavour to its site.

Virgin Retail says it also plans to set up a UK-specific site but has not yet set a date.

Tower of Babel service

Tower says its service will start in the second week of November. Users will be able to order music in six languages and 150 different currencies from 40 locations in the company's global distribution network.

"Whether you are mad for Madonna in Mozambique or avid for ABBA in Alaska, Tower Records' range of over 600,000 entertainment titles ... will be available at the end of your fingertips," it said in a statement.

CDnow Europe is serving 37 countries in Europe and the Middle East. The company says it is adding 100,000 international titles and providing services in nine languages.

Buyers may have to pay the European Value Added Tax automatically on their purchases though, a disincentive for those already taking advantage of being able to buy CDs through the company from the States at cheaper prices and sometimes avoiding the extra charge.

We asked you to tell us your experiences of buying CDs on the Net. Here are some of your reactions:

I have bought a number of CDs from CDNow and have always been most impressed by the efficiency of their operation. Being able to buy Ian Hunter's Artful Dodger album, released in Germany and Scandinavia via an American business was a simple transaction, although I suspect not entirely environmentally friendly as the CD crossed the Atlantic twice to reach me ! I therefore look forward to being able to use a European CDNow service, providing the prices remain as reasonable as they are now.

Cllr. Martin A. Curry
L.B.Bromley, Lib Dem.
(Chair of committee responsible for Trading Standards)

I recently purchased a CD for the first time in the UK from CDParadise - part of WH Smiths. Excellent service although it took longer than the 48 hours specified. Price was slightly more than the High Street - but the ease of finding the CD and convenience made it worth it.

Paul Evans
London, England

I buy all my CD's from here in the US. They are dollars cheaper than my local store and I don't have to pay local tax on them (5% in Maryland). I listen to tracks on the net and select what I want . I used to check the prices in the store. They are never cheaper than on the net. So now I just buy direct from the net. They come the next day by mail and are well packed. Its the only way to buy music and I am sure the UK will enjoy it as well. CD's are over priced in the UK and if there's a better, cheaper way to buy them I am sure it will be popular.

K. Jackson

We are one of the leading European music, video and book online sales companies... We have been steadily improving our service to the point where we now have customers in over 40 countries worldwide and growth of 50% per month - all without any marketing! And we are based in Belfast. We have been aware for some time that the big US online retailers were coming to Europe and have been preparing to do battle with them - a bit of a David v Goliath sort of an affair

Darryl Collins

This is an excellent idea. Especially for those who have niche music tastes take them to the four corners of their local shopping centre every Saturday. I also find it annoying when a stockist has to give up trying to get a CD when they see the 'Deleted' mark against the title. The bigger the music resource we have access to, the better.

Cavin A. Edwards

I often buy Cd's via the internet (CDNOW, for example), simply because they are sold cheaper than that in the UK even when currency conversions and postage are taken into account. Its exactly the same product!!!. Many people, in my opinion, are being "ripped off" by UK retailers who charge artificially high prices, probably imposed by the major record labels themselves, in such cases people are being "milked" for what they (the record companies) can get away with prices set by themeselves. If the cost of CD's were cheaper then I'm sure that sales volumes would increase and the companies (all and sundry) would still maintain realistic profit margins. As it stands, buying CD's over the counters in UK shops is becoming more and more of a luxury item purchase.

On-line CD purchasing (no matter where the warehouses are located) makes sense and the costs are clearly quickly passed onto the customer. I have bought Cds over the internet from both the USA and Europe and have no complaints with the service provided. Yes I have been "stung" for VAT on imported goods as a result, but thats just bloody typical of "the system" that we all live and endure within the UK. Little wonder the UK is often described as "Treasure Island" by any retailer operating in the UK.

Nicholas Selby

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