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BMG to launch MP3 sales site in January

Trial system aimed at Japanese market follows Sony launch this month

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The Japanese wing of Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) will launch an Internet-based digital music distribution service next January, the company, one of the World's 'Big Five' major record labels, said today. The announcement follows a similar one from Sony, which will launch a e-singles music service in Japan on 22 December. BMG's scheme, dubbed Millennium Big Bang (MBB), unlike Sony's Bitmusic site, is experimental and designed to discover the best ways to market and sell music online. The trial will run until the end of June. BMG didn't say how much it will charge for each track, but the site itself will require the payment of a subscription fee, though the fee is being waived for music buyers who sign up before April. It's not clear at this stage whether the fee will cover the cost of downloads, or whether that will incur a further charge. MBB will provide tracks in the controversial but popular MP3 format, but BMG also said users will need RealNetworks' RealJukebox or Liquid Audio's Liquid Music Player to listen to downloaded tracks, implying the company is using some form of copyright protection. That said, since both Liquid Audio and RealNetworks are co-sponsors of the site, along with a stack of other Japanese media and Internet companies, that software requirement may be more flexible that it at first seems. Like Bitmusic, MBB will only be made available to Japanese customers. ®

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