New music e-store touts indie influence

Ninemsn entered the legal music downloads market last night, offerring 200,000 songs across major and independent labels with prices ranging from $1.45 to $1.89.

Like most competitors, the store offers catalogues from BMG, EMI, Festival Mushroom, Sony, Universal and Warner. However, ninemsn's exclusive partnership with distributor OD2 also provides the catalogues of over 100 independent labels.

About 300,000 songs were "anticipated to be available by the end of the year", according to ninemsn.

The ninemsn store will compete with the HMV, JB Hi-Fi, Sanity and ChaosMusic.com.au services, aligned with distributor Destra. Other local services include BigPond Music and Mulemusic.

The ninemsn store is the first to use OD2 outside Europe. This means ninemsn offers the standard pay-as-you-go option, but also a monthly subscription package offering bonus credits.

The monthly subscription package offers songs at a cheaper price than pay-as-you-go, but unused credit cannot be carried into subsequent months.

As part of its preference for bulk buys, ninemsn announced a three week opening special that gives customers who spend $100 another $100 in free credit.

Another strength of the ninemsn service was the offer to stream a song in full for five cents, said ninemsn CEO Martin Hoffman.

Streams are commonly limited to 30 seconds on rival services, he said, though ninemsn also offers this for free.

The service is reliant on Windows Media Player and Microsoft Digital Rights Management. Depending on label agreements, users can burn songs to CD between one to ten times, transfer songs to portable devices "multiple" times, as well as retain their songs with up to four reinstalls.

Last night's launch was attended by a number of music industry luminaries including Alex Lloyd, Sony Music CEO Denis Handlin and industry veteran Phil Tripp. Perth band Eskimo Joe were scheduled to play to attendees.

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