Wednesday, December 06, 2006

EMI hopes online music trials will jazz up sales

EMI Group, the world's third-largest music company, is piloting a new email service offering free trial plays of music in an attempt to lift digital revenue as piracy erodes sales of CDs.

eListeningPost starts today

eListeningPost, which starts today, would provide artists with a secure version of their track or video that could be e-mailed to fans, said co-founder Greg Holloway. Fans could listen to a track as many as five times, with options to buy it or email it to friends.

EMI, Warner Music, Vivendi's Universal Music Group and Sony BMG Music Entertainment are counting on sales of downloaded music as they battle with piracy.

Music sector sales fell 4 percent in the first half as digital revenue only partly made up for a 10 percent drop in physical sales, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry said in October.

"Our business is viral"

"Our business is viral," Holloway said. "We provide... music in a way that you can share it with all your friends. The unsigned artists can benefit and the biggest band in the world can benefit as well."

After a one-time $45 (R328) set-up fee, artists could send unlimited video or audio e-previews to fans for $9 a month, eListeningPost said. Artists would then receive all the proceeds from download sales.

Artists could also combine previews with relevant advertising, getting 60 percent of any ad revenue their previews generated, Holloway said.

eListeningPost was in talks with Warner Music and Sony BMG about testing the service, he said.

Holloway set up eListeningPost with Keith Harris, the chairman of MusicTank, who has represented Stevie Wonder for almost 30 years.

"Record sales are just as important now as they were before, but there are a lot more ways to generate revenue," Holloway said. "You are getting rid of the middle men. It's a natural evolution."

Artists could use their own email service to send epreviews to fans or they could use eListeningPost's bulk email and address the management system for an additional monthly fee, eListeningPost said.

The service used digital rights management from RealNetworks and Microsoft and could be branded "in-house" with artist or label designs.

"I see this as a way that artists can communicate directly with their fans, and also get paid for the use of their music on their own terms," Harris said. - Bloomberg

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