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WARNER MUSIC UNVEILS DIGITAL DOWNLOAD PLAN

Though Last One In, WMG Denies
Being A "Rotten Egg"
It's definitely a case of "last but not least."

As of today, Warner Music Group officially became the fifth and final major label to offer digital downloads. WMG announced its plans to sell downloads of 100 songs—including music by Barenaked Ladies, Collective Soul, Manhattan Transfer, matchbox twenty and Paul Simon—starting in November.

In the months following, the company is expected to expand its online library to more than 1,000 albums and singles to include Tori Amos, Bjork, Phil Collins, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, Madonna, R.E.M., Neil Young and Depeche Mode. The downloads will be drawn from the WMG family—including Atlantic, Elektra, London-Sire, Rhino and, naturally, Warner Bros.—as well as from Alternative Distribution Alliance's family of independent labels.

Warner worked with RealNetworks to develop an infrastructure—which will support several playback formats endorsed by the music industry—to make the downloads available to North American customers via the Web. Real will provide digital distribution services. Retail integration and digital rights management will be handled by Preview Systems.

"As the digital music landscape continues to evolve, we remain dedicated to creating a flexible system focused on our consumers, artists and retailers," said WMG Executive VP of Strategic Planning and Business Development Paul Vidich. "Through our partnership with RealNetwoks and the use of Preview Systems' software, we can offer consumers not only cutting-edge technology but an easy music downloading experience. It'll be like Napster only more costly!"

Walmart.com will support the service and plans to make downloads available when it launches its music download service early next year. Amazon.com will also support Warner's plans.

There was no indication at press time what the cost of downloads would be or whether it would be a per-unit cost or a subscription fee.

Currently embroiled in a lawsuit against file-swapping service Napster, the big five have been criticized for moving too slowly in the digital realm. Universal Music Group was the first major to enter the digital fray, unveiling its plans over the summer. Sony Music, EMI and BMG followed suit in the past few months.

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