Beating the major record labels to the punch, rock star PeterGabriel’s Real WorldRecords label, in collaboration with Womad music festivals and digital music service On Demand Distribution (OD2), launchedan online digital subscription music service Tuesday.
The service, dubbed the Womad DigitalChannel, will be free until October, after which users willhave to pay a monthly fee of five British pounds (approximately US$7.23) to access 40 songs per month from the Real World catalog.
“This will allow a lot of people more access to newmusic,” Gabriel said. “The Internet is allowing small, independent and minorityinterest music makers to be on a level playing field with thebig guys. I am always happy to see David come home ahead ofGoliath.”
Womad, which stands for World of Music, Arts and Dance,organizes music festivals around the world.
Freedom of Choice
Subscribers to the Womad Digital Channel can either select 40tracks a month from the Real World catalog or receive 40tracks chosen by Womad.
At the end of the month the tracks will be deleted and replacedby a new selection of 40 songs. Womad said consumers wouldhave the option of paying to receive permanent copies ofindividual tracks.
The first 40 Womad-selected tracks include Afro Celt SoundSystem, Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Zairean rhumba-rocker Papa Wemba, Ayub Ogada, Joseph Arthur and Orquestra Reve.
In order to protect artist copyrights, the tracks will onlybe playable on the subscriber’s computer, including portabledevices, and will not be transferable to other machines.
“We very much see music subscription models as the way of thefuture and we have been working on the technology to provide asecure, quick and consumer-friendly subscription service formany months,” OD2 chief executive officerCharles Grimsdale said.
“Through this venture with the Womad DigitalChannel, we are not only pioneering the first music rentalsubscription service in Europe, but are also opening up worldmusic to a whole new audience,” Grimsdale added.
Pay and Play
A Jupiter Media Metrix survey released in July found thatconsumers are willing topay for digital music services, following the end of thefree file-swapping service provided by Napster.
Guaranteed sound quality, virus-free music files and high-speedtransfer connection were cited as the top three incentives tosubscribe to online music services, according to Jupiter.
Jupiter also predicted the market for online music will reach$6.2 billion by 2006, up from $1 billion this year.
Two rival online music services are being developed by themajor labels. Sony and Vivendi Universal’s Universal MusicGroup (UMG) are partnering on PressPlay and a consortium ofcompanies including RealNetworks, AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and EMI are backing MusicNet.