Sony Music Entertainment, the US music unit of electronics giant Sony, will tap technology from Microsoft to sell music over the Internet, according to a joint announcement last week.
Under the deal, Sony will use Microsoft's Windows Audio 4.0 technology to sell singles over the Internet when Microsoft ships its technology, expected in the third quarter, according to officials. The announcement confirms earlier reports from sources close to the deal.
The online singles will be offered at prices comparable to those for CD singles sold in retail stores, said Fred Ehrlich, senior vice president and general manager for new technology and business development at Sony Music Entertainment.
The deal also calls for Sony to use Microsoft technology to deliver streaming audio and video clips from the Sony Web site (www.sonymusic.com/).
Sony will choose the singles from those available generally at retail, according to Ehrlich, who also stressed that retailers will be able to participate in Sony's online offering. "It is not our intention in any way to discourage retailers to be part of this offering," Ehrlich said.
The deal is a signal that record companies are speeding up their Web distribution efforts. Universal Music Group, a unit of Seagrams, two weeks ago became the first major label to disclose its plans when it said that by year's end it will begin selling music online.
Fearful of piracy and undercutting money-making sales of music CDs, major record labels have been loath to offer their music over the Internet. Fuelling the concern is MP3 (Motion Picture Experts Group, Audio Layer 3), a compression technology that makes it easy to download music and, according to the record companies, has spawned pirated music online.
In December, Sony and other leading labels joined the Recording Industry Association of America in trying to stem the online spread of illegally copied music. The group hopes to hammer out specifications for selling piracy-proof music over the Internet.