EMI’s new online music service is the latest sign that the big record labels, shocked by the speed with which their market is being eroded by piracy and the illegal downloading of songs over the Internet, are determined to fight back
STUNG by the fact that sales of pirated music are rising faster than the legal market for songs, record labels are coming to realise that the Internet is an outlet they cannot ignore. On November 13th, EMI Recorded Music, the world’s largest independent record company, announced that it was setting up a new online service that will allow music fans to download the songs of their choice. There is nothing new in this. Through legitimate websites like pressplay, a joint venture between Sony and Vivendi Universal, fans have been able to download music since earlier this year. But the songs on such sites are usually available only for a limited period (as long as users pay a subscription) and often with restrictions on how the music is used (for example, not on portable players). EMI is offering something better.
To make its service more appealing, from December 1st the company plans not only to allow music fans in America to “burn” a limited number of songs on to blank CDs; it says it will also let users listen to copyrighted recordings on portable players. To reach as wide an audience as possible, EMI is teaming up with nine distributors of digital music (among them FullAudio, Listen.com’s Rhapsody, MusicNet, pressplay, and Streamwaves). Customers will also get the chance to buy and download singles from forthcoming albums when they are played on the radio.