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Online music heralds new era for record giants

Alan McGee's vision of a music industry in decline may becoming a reality - albeit slowly - with news this week that IBM's top secret Madison project is about to begin.
Written by Richard Barry, Contributor

Madison is a hush hush alliance between Big Blue and a handful of music industry heavyweights to deliver music over the Internet - something many observers believe the record labels have no choice but to do.

Sony, Universal and Warner among others, will be testing IBM's strategy for an undisclosed period of time and will be trying to gauge how effective the project will be at protecting copyright on the Net - a sore point since the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lost its battle to stop Diamond Multimedia's Rio MP3 player which started shipping in the US Monday.

Delivering music online is destined to remain a fiercely debated topic as MP3 sites continue to propagate the Net whilst carefully avoiding court injunctions issued by the record industry. The argument goes that all recording artists have the right, and now have the technology, to sell their creative efforts directly to their target audience over the Net. The record industry disagrees saying all the money they put into nurturing bands and artists will go to nothing if MP3 and other easy to pirate formats are encouraged.

Madison is an interesting project, not least because IBM is providing the necessary technology to keep the music industry happy while allowing artists to get closer to their fans.

IBM did not return phone calls but has been invited to take part in an article scheduled for the middle of next week.

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