British-based commercial P2P music company Wippit will begin selling Bertelsmann Music Group's back catalogue through its upcoming pay-per-download digital music service.
The BMG deal, struck earlier this year but not made public until today, adds a second major label's repertoire to Wippit's catalogue. Last year it won the support of EMI, which will be contributing 175,000 songs to the download service. Wippit already offers 60,000 songs from independent labels through its DRM-protected P2P file sharing service. The BMG will add over 10,000 songs to the total.
Wippit is believed to be on the verge of announcing a deal with a third major label. Indeed, founder and CEO Paul Myers told Reuters today that the company was talking to two of the remaining three 'big five' labels - he wouldn't say which one it isn't in contact with.
Sony, however, has to be the likeliest candidate given its stated plan to offer a download service of its own, dubbed Connect and keyed to its MiniDisc players and their ATRAC 3 compressed digital audio format. Indeed, Sony's moves have been linked to the delays experienced by other would-be European music download services who are being forced to wait for Sony to launch before being granted licences. Sony's service is expected to go live in the US and Europe this Spring.
The launch of Sony Connect is expected to be considered by the European Commission during its investigation of the music company's proposed merger with BMG.
Building up those big name connections will be essential if Wippit's to compete with the likes of Apple and Napster, both due to launch in Europe this year. Apple is believed to be preparing a pan-European roll-out, while Napster is focusing on the UK.
To date, the only pan-European legal online music service will support from all the major labels is OD2 which late last year added a download offering to its subscription service. Wippit is some way away from that - while it has a licence to sell EMI tracks throughout Europe, BMG has only granted the company UK and Ireland distribution rights. Most of its indie suppliers have offered worldwide sales licences. ®