NEW YORK -- In the escalating race to dominate the sale of music over the Internet, bookseller barnesandnoble.com will announce Wednesday the launch of its online "music store."
The service, being introduced as part of a redesigned book-selling site that also makes its debut Wednesday, will sell all types of music, including an emphasis on classical-music sales. It also will offer a navigational system for users that delves deeply into the subgenres of many styles of music.
Like other online music retailers, barnesandnoble.com's music will be heavily discounted, in some cases as much as 30 percent off the suggested retail price.
Online music boom
Barnesandnoble.com (Nasdaq:BNBN), which is owned equally by book retailer Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE:BKS) and German media company Bertelsmann AG, faces a bevy of rivals in selling music. Amazon.com (Nasdaq:AMZN) jumped into online music sales one year ago and is considered the leading music retailer, ahead of other aggressive retailers such as CDnow Inc. (Nasdaq:CDNW).
The field also includes traditional music retailers, such as Tower Records, that have established prominent sites, as well as traditional book sellers, such as Borders Group Inc. (NYSE:BGP), whose site also sells music.
In addition to selling recorded music, many music retailers are also making songs available for downloading to home computers. Tuesday, for example, Amazon.com announced that songs from stars such as Sheryl Crow and David Byrne will be added to its existing free digital downloads area over the next two weeks.
'The best online music store?'
To promote its own music service, barnesandnoble.com will offer a previously unreleased live track of "Deep Water" from the artist Jewel, available for free digital download. However, Barnesandnoble.com said it won't make free digital downloads an important part of the site's launch but would consider offering them in the future.
Instead, the Web site emphasizes depth of content, a navigation system and an array of related products. For example, buyers who scan the classical-music area would be offered albums as well as classical music-related books, videos, magazines and sheet music.
Barnesandnoble.com also has hired critics, such as jazz expert Gary Giddens, to provide reviews and an "editor's picks" area, none of which can be influenced by promoters or record labels, according to the company. However, the site features a "listening wall" area with 30-second audio samples of music; in the future, barnesandnoble.com will sell positions in this area to record labels.
Forrester Research Inc. estimates that music sales on the Internet will reach $374 million for 1999 and balloon to $2.5 billion by 2003.
"Certainly we're not the first to launch a music store, but I know we have created the best online music store," said Jonathan Bulkeley , chief executive of barnesandnoble.com.