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Sony, like fellow 'big five' international recording label BMG, will soon launch an digital music distribution service focused on third-party retailers. Sony's scheme will go live later this month - BMG's won't happen until the summer - and provide over 50 tracks (51, we presume...) through Web sites run by Tower Records, Hastings Entertainment and Alliance Entertainment. Other retailers may come on stream over time - Sony is certainly talking to possible partners. Songs will be added to the roster, too, the company said. Tracks will cost $3.49 per download, though there will be a special $2.49 introductory price. With the focus on a track-by-track basis, it's clear Sony is initially focusing on singles, unlike its 'big five' rival, which appears to be pursuing album sales too. And with prices more than three times what many digital music fans are used to paying, Sony is perhaps trying to tap into markets beyond the emerging market for teenage, baggy pants-wearing MP3 listeners. Both companies will be using Reciprocal's digital rights management system. BMG said it would provide its music in a variety of formats, though Sony has selected just Microsoft Audio, which is surprising given the company's solid state Walkman players use its own ATRAC-3 format. This does at least open the music to users who don't own a Sony player, though, at the same time it restricts sales to Windows users. Linux fans are almost certainly ruled out here, though Mac owners at least have access to a flaky beta version of Windows Media Player, if they can find it. ® Related Story BMG digital music service to launch this summer

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