Amazon readies digital music delivery service

Online stores tests water with free promo singles

Amazon.com is to move into the downloadable music market today. It dipped its toe in the water earlier this year with one-off free singles, but this is the first time the online store has offered a specific department for downloadable music. The new site offers tracks from 14 artists, many of them fairly famous, which makes a change from the usually roster of unknowns found on many online music archives. Right now, Amazon is offering free tracks as a teaser to prompt sales of albums on CD, but its move clearly paves the way for full-scale downloads later this year -- the company is predominantly using Liquid Audio's technology, which not only limits piracy but allows Amazon to start charging for songs as and when it wants to. That's not likely to happen before the major labels begin offering albums digitally since they're the ones with the most popular -- ie. the most lucrative -- artists. That, in turn, won't happen until the music industry led Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) gets its act together and releases its specifications for compression and copyright protection mechanisms later this year. ®

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