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MP3.com to launch IPO

Best-known MP3 merchant to seek funding for further expansion

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Net-based digital music distributor MP3.com is to leap onto the inflated internet stock bandwagon later this year with its IPO, company CEO Michael Robertson said this weekend. Speaking at the New York Music and Internet Expo, Robertson said the initial share offering would take before the end of the year, and was suitably bullish about the company's prospects. "MP3.com is the next MTV, except it will grow much bigger," he said, modestly. Still, given the popularity of downloading music over the Internet -- Excite and Go2Net recently reported that 'MP3' was now a more frequently entered search string than 'sex' -- MP3.com, as one of the better known music providers -- could be destined for big things. The site has certainly garnered enough interest to win $11 million of financing from US venture capitalists Sequoia and Idealab. However, while the company claims to offer tracks from over 6000 artists and independent record labels -- for many of whom it sells CDs -- how many of those are likely to hit the mainstream, at least while they're represented by MP3.com -- remains to be seen. Few observers doubt the online music business is going to be worth big bucks, but companies like MP3.com are going to have to get expanding their infrastructure and roster of big-name artists sorted out, and begin making money before the major labels move in, if they're to have their share of the rewards. MP3.com also needs to move beyond its current 'the music business is out to get us' attitude. That's not to say the company doesn't have a point, but it's unlikely to have been singled out for treatment, and rival vendors don't seem to be whining about it quite so much. The company's initial filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission will give an indication of the company's financial status to date, giving an interesting picture not only of MP3.com but of the status of the MP3 business as a whole. ®

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