UK-based digital music distributor On Demand Distribution (OD2) today launched its own a la carte download service, a day ahead of Apple's anticipated European iTunes Music Store launch.
The new service not only provides downloads by a novel 1p-a-go on-demand jukebox feature.
OD2's SonicSelector will be made available through OD2's retail partners. One of them is UK cableco NTL, which today said it was also touting Napster's download and subscription services.
Other partners include MTV, ISPs Tiscali and MSN, and PC maker Packard Bell. SonicSelector is available in the UK, France, Germany and Italy.
OD2 announced last summer that it would offer a download service alongside its traditional subscription-based offerings. Coca Cola's MyCokeMusic was the first to use the new system when it launched in the UK this past January.
The Windows-only SonicSelector is backed by a 350,000-strong song catalogue - half of Napster's 700,000 selection, a figure Apple is also expected to tout tomorrow.
SonicSelector uses a free, proprietary Windows Media Player plug-in to provide both downloads and streaming through Microsoft's software. Downloads are priced at 75p/99c, while songs can be listened to in full for 1p/1c a go.
This novel mode differs from other services which offer either 30s clips or stream on pre-determined 'radio station' track selections. Downloaded songs can be transferred to a portable player or burned to CD.
The size of its catalogue and Windows-only nature notwithstanding, OD2's SonicSelector seems impressively easy-to-use and marks a big shift away from its subscription heritage.
It also features a remarkable pricing scheme that the company claims will lower the cost of the most popular songs. "The more tracks people buy, the cheaper the unit price becomes," OD2 CEO Charles Grimsdale pledged.
That's a good carrot to dangle before downloaders. The question remains: how will OD2's retail partners promote the service. With both Apple and Napster clocking up big promotional programmes, OD2 will have its work cut out persuading its partners to do likewise. OD2's own promotional efforts are likely to be diluted by the need to tout a variety of partner brands too.
In addition to Apple's ITMS, Sony's Connect service is expected to launch this month. ®
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