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Details of Sky's music download service leak

Is this a bargain?

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Exclusive Details of BSkyB's long awaited music collaboration with Vivendi-owned Universal Music are circulating, and have seeped into our inbox. The joint venture, between the world's biggest record label and the powerful media company which was announced with much fanfare last summer, will be branded "Sky Songs".

According to documentation seen by El Reg, four tiers of service will be offered - each offering unlimited streaming plus a bundle of a la carte downloads. The lowest tier of £4.99 per month makes five tracks available, while the highest permits 20 downloads or two complete albumsfor £11.99. Labels will be paid regardless of whether subscribers "redeem" the offer.

A Sky spokesman claimed the details would not reflect final pricing - although they have circulated widely in the industry this week. Participating labels will be paid for both streaming revenue, a fraction of a penny, and downloads - in line with industry rates.

The announcement of the JV last year sent shockwaves throughout the ISP and music businesses because of the nature of the two founders: they're the most successful and most feared companies in their respective sectors. Universal Music Group enjoys a market share of over 30 per cent, while Sky boasts two million UK subscribers - 15 per cent taking up the triple play offering TV, phone and broadband.

The joint venture caused Universal's label allies to grumble about exclusionary tactics. Sky says it's still in negotiations which would allow other labels to take an equity stake in the new company.

It may be a hard sell.

Since last July, Amazon has entered the UK market with heavily discounted frontline catalogue, back catalogue bargains for as little as 29p per song, and special offers. Apple's iTunes store cut its album prices back in January.

And then for streaming, there's Spotify (review here) - which means you can get out of the buying habit altogether. ®

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