Ninemsn says it gives music pirates a choice

Microsoft and Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL) online media joint venture, Ninemsn, hopes its new online music store launched in Sydney late yesterday will curb illegal music file sharing."The advent of legitimate online music services is most welcome.

Microsoft and Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL) online media joint venture, Ninemsn, hopes its new online music store launched in Sydney late yesterday will curb illegal music file sharing.

"The advent of legitimate online music services is most welcome. We are witnessing an exciting new distribution avenue for music and, simultaneously, taking strong and affirmative action against music pirates," said Denis Handlin, chief executive officer and chairman of Sony Music Entertainment.

The new service gives Australian consumers access to more than 200,000 licensed music tracks online under a pricing plan that rewards volume purchasing.

Song prices vary according to the purchasing model chosen by the customer. Consumers that pay a AU$25.00 monthly subscription fee will be able to purchase tracks for AU$1.45 each.

Alternatively, customers who purchase an AU$80 block of credit pay AU$1.59. The maximum price for a single track is AU$1.89.

A thirty-second streamed sample of tracks were to be made available for free with full streamed samples available at a cost of five cents each.

The payment model was last night questioned by those who were sceptical about its ability to include the demographics most likely to engage in music copyright infringements such as digital audio file sharing. It relies exclusively on credit card payment which is, arguably, less accessible to younger online music enthusiasts.

Ninemsn chief executive officer, Martin Hoffman, said that the company would consider introducing alternative payment methods in the future.

Further casting doubt on the paid music service's ability to attract younger listeners, the experience of Ninemsn's partner OD2 in Europe suggests that 89 percent of online music orders are for back catalogue purchases. Contemporary Top 100 tracks accounted for only 11 percent of purchases.

Still the company claims the site is already attracting a large amount of interest. Hoffman last night said that 30,000 Ninemsn subscribers had pre-registered to sign up for the site.

The ecommerce engine behind the Ninemsn music store was provided by OD2, which recently formed a partnership with the online media property in Australia.

Using OD2, ninemsn users can buy real-time music "streams" and permanent copies of songs to keep on their computers, portable players or burn to CD.

However the service only works with MP3 players and software that supports the DRM1000 and Windows Media Format.

The ninemsn store incorporates content from six major labels including BMG, EMI, Festival Mushroom, Sony, Universal and Warner - and 103 independent labels from Australia, Europe and North America.

Ninemsn claims to have a further 900,000 songs lined up for distribution through the service.