EMI Will Try Digital Downloads

Digital downloading is all the rage with the major record labels. EMI Recorded Music, a unit of EMI Group PLC, announced May 10 that it will make some of its massive catalog available as digital downloads beginning this summer. More than 100 albums and 40 singles will be offered on a trial basis, according to a company press release dated May 10. EMI's musical spectrum covers every genre, including pop, rock, jazz, classical, Latin, Christian, country, rap/urban, and dance—a roster of approximately 1500 artists. Labels under the EMI umbrella include Capitol, Angel, Blue Note, EMI, Priority, and Virgin.

The North American trail will begin around July 1, and, if it proves viable, will be expanded worldwide later this year. The downloads will be made available to music fans' home computers as well as at CD burners installed at EMI's dealers, at prices similar to those charged for factory CDs. Artists to be offered included Anne Murray, Pink Floyd, Selena, Frank Sinatra, Snoop Dogg, Spice Girls, and Tina Turner.

The software format will be Windows Media, to "ensure that the consumer experience is as easy and straightforward as possible." (Windows Media is one of the worst-performing data-reduction codecs, according to a report in the May 2000 issue of the English magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review, adds John Atkinson.)

In case of technical glitches, consumers will be allowed up to two installs per recording. EMI will ensure that the recordings can be easily transferred to portable devices, according to the announcement. "It is our priority to ensure that purchasing our artists' music by digital download is as easy as possible," said Richard Cottrell, president of EMI Music Distribution.

Sony Music, Universal Music, and BMG Entertainment have all announced similar plans to move music distribution into the digital arena. EMI's move comes after months of testing the waters with several Internet music distributors, such as Digital On-Demand, Liquid Audio, Sanity.com, RadioWave, Launch Media, and Listen.com. "Digital downloads are but one of the many new opportunities we have to grow the worldwide music business," said Jay Samit, senior vice president, New Media, EMI Recorded Music. "New media technologies are driving new business models that bring our artists' music into their fans' lives."

"Digital delivery will eventually become part of our standard release pattern," said Ken Berry, president and CEO of EMI Recorded Music. "We are committed to making high-quality music available to the consumer in a variety of media. This will allow our artists' fans to take advantage of new ways of consuming music while ensuring that artists and producers are compensated for their work. This trial is just the beginning: a small portion of the great catalog of music from EMI." The company releases more than 1000 new albums annually.