Supertracks provides so-called digital rights management (DRM) services based on software developed by Preview Systems. The companies aim to deter unauthorized file-copying while smoothing the technical issues involved in delivering music online.
In addition to providing security, Supertracks links retailers to music publishers, manages royalty payments, and tracks sales.
Partnering with Supertracks are BestBuy.com, CD Plus.com, CDNow, Chapters Online, HMV.com, Music World, Musicland (SamGoody.com, Suncoast.com, MediaPlay.com, OnCue.com), SamtheRecordMan.com, TWEC.com and Virgin JamCast.
"Our goal is to create the best possible consumer experience by working closely with the retailers, staying behind the scenes, in order to make it easy for the retailers to sell digital music," Supertracks CEO Charles Jennings said in a statement.
Record labels are partnering with DRM firms to develop secure digital distribution networks in a bid to stem the unauthorized spread of music tracks unleashed by the popular MP3 file format. The Recording Industry Association of America and some recording artists have filed lawsuits targeting companies they say are facilitating music piracy through the use of MP3s, notably the Napster music-swapping community.
Supertracks is working with "Big Five" label EMI Recorded Music to build an international market for secure downloadable music--starting with music by the 1,500 artists on EMI's Virgin, Capitol, Blue Note and Angel labels.
The partnership likely will stretch even further, as EMI plans to merge with Time Warner to create a $20 billion music powerhouse. The proposed company--to be called Warner EMI Music--will have some of the biggest names on its roster of artists.
The label's catalog includes The Beatles, Spice Girls and The Rolling Stones, while Time Warner's list of artists includes Madonna, Phil Collins and Jewel.