According to BT account manager Sean Lowry, the company is considering its options in the network delivery of digital music to high street music outlets. Under the scheme, BT would provide a private network to music shops so retailers could download and burn CDs on the spot, giving customers the choice of back catalogue albums as well as chart tunes.
The business is already happening. It is just a question of which direction UK music retailers decide to go. Separately, San Jose, California company PersonalDisc expects its own kiosk system, EntertainMart, to be offering press-while-you-wait CDs with music and games in 50 malls across America by Christmas.
BT's project could see networked shops within six years, according to Lowry, who believes retailers are worried about the growth in popularity for downloading music from the Internet. "The retail industry are very concerned about what their role will be in three years time," Lowry said.
"Backbone providers are in the position to offer them a way forward," he added. Lowry was among delegates at the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) conference, looking at the e-commerce potential of digital music.
Rob Wells, Internet and new media manager for BMG Entertainment sees virtual record shops as a stepping stone towards wider digital distribution but questions whether musicians would want to be involved in the mix and match compilations which such a system would make available. "Certain artists would not allow their work to be cherry-picked. It would be a bit like slicing the eyes off the Mona Lisa and just looking at those," he said.
However a spokesman for the Music Alliance -- the organisation which deals with copyright issues -- believes musicians could benefit from the opportunities of virtual record stores. "Potentially the growth of the Internet means every single track ever made could be made available. This would give an opportunity for creators to get their music to a much wider audience," he said.