British-based commercial P2P music company Wippit is to launch an iTunes-style music download service offering songs for less than 50p (91c) a pop, The Register has learned.
Wippit's move was pre-announced by the company's first major label music partner, EMI, which this week said that it would be offering its digital download catalogue of 175,000 tracks via Wippit.
"Under this new agreement with Wippit, a selection of EMI repertoire will be included in Wippit's subscription service and Wippit's soon to be unveiled 'a la carte' digital download service," EMI said.
Wippit has built a business around a subscription-based P2P service. Users pay £ $49 a year or $6 a month and can download and share the 60,000-odd songs provided by the service. The system uses DRM to prevent unlicensed tracks from being shared across its network. All content is provided in MP3 format, and tracks can be moved to portable music players and burned to CD without limitations.
Wippit also provides licensed tunes as ringtones, and receives further revenue from advertising banners on its sharing software.
A source familiar with Wippit's download scheme told The Register that the company will pitch the service as a 'no frills' offering, comparing it to the likes of Apple's iTunes Music Service and Napster as EasyJet and Ryanair are to British Airways and American Airlines in the transport arena.
"Think EasyJet for the iPod crowd and you'll know where we're going," the source said. "Wippit's pricing will be distinctly favourable compared to anything else on the market, particularly iTunes and physical CDs - think sub-50p."
The company is attempting to attract much younger users than Apple, Napster and Europe's current leading digital download service, O2, all of which require users to enter their credit card details. That effectively limits such services to people aged 18 or over.
"You won't need a credit card - or to be over 18 - to buy music," said the Wippit source.
The downside is Wippit's relatively limited database of songs. However, while the company has worked primarily with independent labels, last year it won the support of EMI. It began offering EMI artists' songs this week. Wippit will be adding a second, unnamed, major label's catalogue to its roster in due course. The source said a third major signing is in the offing, but as yet the deal has not been finalised. ®