General News

Vivendi Universal and MSN enter the online music world

Apr 26, 2001 | 3:56pm EDT

Napster may be on its way out, but the pioneering Web site has blown open the door in bringing music to the Internet.

In the last few days, two major corporations have announced plans to enter the online music world. Rock singer David Bowie also announced that he wants to launch an online radio service.

Vive La Vivendi!: Vivendi Universal, the merged alliance between the French entertainment conglomerate and Seagram's Universal Studios, is looking to close a series of deals with one or several major U.S. Internet portals to distribute its music over the Internet.

At a London conference organized by Dow Jones Media and Entertainment, Vivendi Universal Chairman Jean-Marie Messier said that he is interested in a U.S. distribution deal that would "distribute my content through as many platforms as possibleā€¦not primarily through acquisitions, but with a focus on partnerships and commercial agreements," according to Reuters.

He was entertaining proposals from all the major portals, including Yahoo!, AOL and MSN, but was reticent to disclose who had the leading edge. He also was not eager to join the Music Net alliance, which was announced Monday between AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann, EMI and RealNetworks to create online music subscription services.

"Music Net is focusing on one single technology - RealNetworks," Messier said at the conference. "I don't mind working with RealNetworks, but I want to get as much music as possible on an many platforms as possible using as many technologies as possible."

Watch out Internet users, Bill Gates strikes again: Well, if Vivendi Universal isn't interested in the Music Net alliance, Microsoft Corp. sure is.

The software giant has announced plans to launch a rival music broadcasting service that will offer music downloads and/or online music subscriptions.

"This is an entrance into the online music industry," Susan Lefko, a MSN product manager, told Reuters. "We're looking into all these different types of thingsā€¦into what makes sense and what consumers are willing to pay for."

The MSN music service will access the vault of technology and digital song analysis of Mongo Music, a privately owned music library MSN acquired in the fall. This technology will allow users to hear a variety of preset music categories and 200 subcategories, while simultaneously being able to set preferences to hear similar artists and different tempos or moods. This will naturally lead into offering songs for downloads and a service for consumers to store digital music online or music subscriptions, Lefko said.

"Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes" for Bowie: David Bowie is up for surfing the net.

His Internet company, BowieNet, is launching its online radio station called BowieRadio, on which a user can hear Bowie songs as well as regular streaming radio stations. They also will be able to hear Bowie as one of the disc jockeys.

"The possibilities are endless,'' Bowie told The Associated Press. "We have developed programming that not only satisfies the musical tastes and personal requests of our members, but also does not infringe on the rights of the writers and publishers."

The service will not allow users to copy and exchange music.

BowieNet has inspired other artists, such as the Dave Matthews Band and Prince, to launch similar sites.

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