Sony BMG will start selling music downloads free of
copyright-protection safeguards later this month in North America,
as even the last holdout among the major record labels crumbled to
the growing trend.
Sony BMG Music Entertainment said in a statement that some
digital albums will be available through a new download service
called Platinum MusicPass starting next Tuesday in the United
States and late January in Canada.
A Sony Corp official in Tokyo, requesting anonymity, confirmed
the company's move toward the MP3 format in the US, but said that
similar moves aren't in the works in Japan and elsewhere.
Music files in the MP3 format can be copied to computers and
burned onto CDs without restriction. They can also be played on
most digital music players, including Apple Inc's iPod as well as
on personal computers.
As a Japanese electronic maker that also has major entertainment
businesses, including its music joint venture with Bertelsmann AG,
Sony has long resisted the global trend toward MP3 files.
Tokyo-based Sony has stuck to what the industry calls Digital
Rights Management, or DRM, which are like software coding that
prevents copying downloaded tunes by making some songs incompatible
with some digital players.
But CD sales around the world have been on a skid as more people
opt to purchase their music online, such as Apple's iTunes Music
Sony has taken a beating in digital players with the booming
popularity of the iPod, even in its home Japanese market.
Sony BMG's MusicPass will offer 37 titles at first, including
rock, pop and other genres, according to the company. But people
must first buy a card available at 4,500 retail outlets across the
US, including Best Buy, Target and others, it said.
The US$12.99 cards will have a password identification number on
the back and so the people will be able to visit an Internet site
for MusicPass to download audio files, Sony BMG said.
Last month, Warner Music Group, which had also resisted selling
music online without copy protection, agreed to sell its tunes on
Amazon's digital music store.
Universal Music Group and EMI Music Group PLC have earlier
signed to sell large portions of their catalogs as MP3 files, as
have many independent labels.
"The introduction of MusicPass is an important part of Sony
BMG's ongoing campaign to bring its artists' music to fans in new
and innovative ways," said Thomas Hesse, president, global digital
business and US sales, at Sony BMG.
One of the albums offered is Celine Dion's "Taking Chances."
Sony BMG's other artists include Bob Dylan, Britney Spears,
Jennifer Lopez and Avril Lavigne.
(Shanghai Daily January 9, 2008)