Noisy E-mail and Recordless Record Companies

E-mail spam just got a lot noisier thanks to AT&T's a2b music and BMG Entertainment. (See previous stories 1, 2.) Last week, they announced that BMG will deliver the first "mass communication" of a2b MAIL to the consumer databases of each of its websites, www.bugjuice.com (alternative and rock music), www.peeps.com (urban music), and www.twangthis.com (country music).

Intended strictly as an e-mail marketing tool, a2b MAIL uses a mini-a2b music client player embedded in the actual e-mail message. To hear the included sample requires no downloads, plug-ins, audio streaming technology, or hyperlinking---the user opens it like any normal e-mail, clicks a button, and hears 12-15 seconds of "high-quality" audio. A mouse-click on the integrated album graphic automatically links to the artist's, record company's, or music retailer's website for more information.

Tower Records, both online and offline, will be the exclusive retailer for this particular BMG/a2b MAIL promotion. The companies hope that consumers will purchase full-length CDs from featured a2b MAIL artists, either online or at the store itself.

"We are very excited to be joining with AT&T's a2b music in debuting a2b MAIL, which is a ground-breaking technology that also provides us with a compelling way to leverage the strength of our databases," said Kevin Conroy, senior vice president of marketing for BMG Entertainment North America. "We are committed to embracing new technology to more effectively market BMG's artists and music online. We look forward to staying in the forefront and continuing to give our consumers the kind of unique and exciting music experiences they won't find anywhere else."

According to Larry Miller, chief operating officer of a2b music, "We feel that it is part of our mission to continue to develop cutting-edge marketing tools and initiatives that will help to bring the artists, labels, and retailers in closer touch with their customers. a2b MAIL is a huge leap toward that goal---cost-effective, direct communication with the consumer."

The inaugural a2b MAIL launch will feature Natalie Imbruglia, A Tribe Called Quest, and BR5-49.

In related news last week, GoodNoise Corporation, which describes itself as "the first record company focused on the Internet as a platform for the sale and electronic delivery of music," and Xing Technology Corporation annouced a strategic alliance to promote the MP3 (MPEG1 Layer3) standard. Under the terms of the agreement, GoodNoise and Xing will conduct joint marketing activities aimed at advancing the growing market for downloadable audio recordings based on MP3 technology.

"GoodNoise and Xing share a common vision of the potential of downloadable recordings---specifically based on the MP3 standard," said Gene Hoffman, president and CEO, GoodNoise Corporation. "Through our alliance with Xing, we will focus on educating consumers, artists, and the music industry about the benefits of MP3 and its potential for re-shaping the way music is sold and distributed."

As part of the collaboration, Xing will feature GoodNoise artists and broadcast the GoodNoise Internet radio station on the Xing website (www.xingtech.com). In addition, GoodNoise will license Xing's new MP3 Encoder to encode sound-recording data files for commercial distribution. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

"The GoodNoise business model is a clear example of what record companies will look like in the 21st century," said Hassan Miah, president and CEO, Xing Technology Corp.

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