IBM and Liquid Audio Cross-Fertilize

The struggle for position in the Internet-based audio downloading market continues unabated. On the format front, Sony has recently announced several deals to bring its ATRAC compressed-audio format to the Web, while IBM and Liquid Audio announced last week that they have entered into a strategic relationship intended to "advance the digital music marketplace" with content-management tools.

Under the new agreement, Liquid Audio says it plans to license the digital rights management (DRM) technology from IBM's Electronic Media Management System (EMMS) for integration into Liquid's music distribution software. Liquid says it is designing its system to provide record labels with "one unified view into multi-vendor solutions for publishing content, setting distribution rules, populating content, integrating content into retail, integrating clearinghouses, and disseminating merchandising assets." Working with IBM, Liquid Audio plans to first implement this multi-vendor solution for BMG Entertainment, which recently unveiled its digital music download plans (see related story).

Liquid claims that the announcement "reinforces our commitment to supporting digital delivery technologies in a format-neutral solution, which unites a wide range of components from multiple vendors in one interoperable system." IBM's Richard K. Selvage adds that "we believe our joint efforts to develop an inclusive, standards-based platform for digital music distribution will encourage a robust marketplace."

Liquid's Gerry Kearby explains that "by adding support for IBM's DRM technology, we plan to enable content owners to manage the flow of content from the point of creation to retail delivery. This simplifies all aspects of content creation and third-party integration, while providing a unified catalog presentation to retailers and a consistent reporting infrastructure for everyone."

According to IBM, EMMS was successfully tested in a broadband music-distribution trial conducted with the big five record companies last year. Major components of EMMS include a content-mastering system, tools for hosting music content and promotional materials, and tools for online music retailers supporting the sale of digital music to consumers. IBM announced an EMMS partnership with Sony exactly one year ago (see previous story).