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Yahoo! signed to Sony, Universal digital music service

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Why weren't Sony and Universal part of the digital music distribution initiative announced by fellow 'big five' recording companies EMI, Warner and BMG on Monday? Because they were working on a service of their own, which they effectively launched today.

Called Duet, the venture is backed by Yahoo!, which will provide access to it through its Web portal, just as AOL and RealNetworks will offer MusicNet.

Since MusicNet is an 'open' system - none of the parties have an exclusive licence to its digital back-catalogue, and the music providers can offer their music to other distribution services - it's possible that Yahoo! Could sign up for MusicNet too.

Can the two co-exist? There's no reason why not. That's what's clever about focusing on distribution, not the end user. By the sounds of it - though the services will have to be up and running before anyone can be sure about it - Yahoo! can license both, but provide a single, consistent interface for its users.

Think of it like a bricks'n'mortar music store. Tower Records stocks product from all the major labels and more, supplied through multiple distributors, but to the music consumer it's just a single outlet.

Of course, if the two come to offer different types of service - one's a pay-per-download system, while the other is subscription-based - that will complicate matters, as will trying to position their respective offerings as consumer brands. As anonymous distribution networks, there's no issue, however. ®

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EMI, BMG, AOL define universal Net music scheme

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