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Saturday, September 25, 1999 Published at 06:44 GMT 07:44 UK


It's only MP3 but I like it

The new player is matchbox-sized and can have any kind of cover

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

Former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman has become the first major artist to release an album on his own personalised digital MP3 player.

The matchbox-sized device with no moving parts is one of the smallest of its kind in the world and features encryption software designed in the UK to prevent piracy.

[ image: Lee: Seismic effect]
Lee: Seismic effect
The player costs £50 plus VAT, with the album cover on its front and the actual music, claimed to be in better-than-CD quality, contained on a removable chip inside known as a Multi Media Card (MMC), similar to the SIM cards in mobile phones.

Bill Wyman has chosen to release a Special Edition album of unreleased material and live performances of his Rhythm Kings supergroup featuring Eric Clapton, Georgie Fame, Gary Booker and Peter Frampton.

The player, due to be promoted from 1 October, is expected to become a collectors' item but can be used for other MMC albums or with blank MMCs for users to record their own MP3 music choices.

Dazed and confused

"Up to now it's been hard to see how we could release our music globally in the new format and at the same time protect ourselves from the piracy problem," said the ex-Stone.

"The Bill Wyman MP3 Player totally solves this problem, I'm very excited about this - in fact my mind is reeling from the possibilities."

The player and concept have been developed by London-based MP3 UK Ltd, whose founder and CEO Grenville Lee described the launch as "a seismic event for the record industry".

An MP3 Multi Media Card Reader/Writer is also available for £50 to enable any musician to produce files for MMC albums with an inbuilt copyrighting system.

Anyone could download the music from an artist's site but a unique serial number is needed to unlock it. Musicians can get real-time online reports on album sales and royalty payments due.

Grenville Lee expects other major artists to release material on the MP3 players with album-cover wraparounds in the near future and believes it can become a Swatch-style fashion accessory that could even be worn like an earring.

The Wyman announcement comes in the same week that Pete Townshend of The Who made his latest album, Pete Townshend Live, free to download until 27 September from the Website.

And David Bowie fans were able to buy and download his latest album "hours..." from the Web weeks before it goes on sale in the shops.

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