Peter Gabriel opens music download service

Rent up to 40 songs a month

Musician Peter Gabriel yesterday launched a digital music distribution service with technology developed by his company OD2, with content from his Real World Records label and marketed under his World of Music and Dance (Womad) brand.

The service, Womad Digital Channel, will offer listeners up to 40 tracks a month for a flat monthly fee of £4.99 ($7.20). The tracks themselves are tied to the computer on which they've been download on, and while they can be copied (once presumably) to a portable digital music player, they can't be played on another PC. Music can also be streamed to the user.

Music collectors will be forced to cough for albums if they wish to keep songs - downloaded tracks will be automatically erased after a month.

Real World's world music catalogue is the source of the material - though Gabriel's own songs on Real World don't appear to be included - and listeners can choose their 40 songs from the catalogue or have the company make selections on their behalf. Essentially, that amounts to renting three albums a month.

It's an interesting idea, but we wonder how soon the novelty of receiving 40 tracks a month will wear off - or how soon they'll run out of songs. We can imagine listeners renting a number of albums each month but will they want them all to be world music titles. Success, we reckon, will be based on variety.

A broader range of songs may well be provided soon. Gabriel' OD2 has already signed up German independent label Edel, along with Telstar, and is in talks with the Association of Independent Music. With their focus on other musical genres, we imagine they will all be offered channels of their own.

And don't forget that OD2 licensed all of EMI's back catalogue for digital distribution.

The music is offered in Windows Media Audio format, so you'll need Microsoft's Media Player to listen to them. And Womad's download software is currently Windows-only, which is something of a surprise given the favour Gabriel has shown in the past to the Macintosh. ®

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