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iTunes competitor slashes song prices

A leading Australian music download provider has slashed its prices to AU$0.89 per track in an effort to deflate the local launch of iTunes Music Store.

A leading Australian music download provider has slashed its prices to AU$0.89 per track in an effort to deflate the local launch of iTunes Music Store.

DestraMusic.com, which powers the on-line music download sites of retailers such as Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Chaos Music, ABC and more, will sell songs for AU$0.89 cents each until the end of November, down from AU$1.89 each. The Apple iTunes Music Store sells tracks for AU$1.69. DestraMusic.com music files are sent as copy-protected Windows Media files, which means they're incompatible with iPods.

DestraMusic.com's price cut has been the most extreme reaction from Australia's established music download providers, with most cautiously welcoming the iTunes launch as a boost for the nascent industry as a whole.

Soundbuzz Australia general manager Paul Buchanan says he expects the entire music download market to expand, citing anecdotal evidence from international record labels that show sales increases of between 25 and 50 percent across the board in markets where iTunes has launched. Buchanan has, however, ruled out any price cuts, saying his company would ''not have any kneejerk reaction to iTunes". Soundbuzz powers the music download sites of Telstra BigPond, Optus and Creative, and currently sells songs for AU$1.49 from its own site, www.soundbuzz.com.

While price cuts have been limited to DestraMusic.com, other music download providers have been quick to point out their advantages over iTunes. A spokesman for Telstra BigPond Music has spruiked that their service is "locally owned, locally produced, locally focused -- not a rebadged overseas site".

"BigPond Music is differentiated by its strong commitment to promoting Australian and independent artists," Telstra BigPond spokesman Craig Middleton said.

DestraMusic.com CEO Domenic Carosa has pointed out that his company's sites include music from SonyBMG, with artists such as Pete Murray, Rogue Traders, Franz Ferdinand and Australian Idol performers on the download lists. The iTunes Music Store launched without the support of SonyBMG locally.

DestraMusic.com is also planning on introducing music videos to its site before Christmas this year. Unlike iTunes, which charges AU$3.39 for each of its music video downloads, DestraMusic.com will only allow users to stream music videos while on the site, but will not charge any money.

Until the launch of the official iTunes Music Store yesterday, Australian iPod owners had been unable to legally buy licensed digital music as most of the other on-line providers used the iPod-incompatible Windows Media format. Copy protected Windows Media files, however, can be played on most other players, such as models from Creative, Samsung, JNC and more recently Sony. iPod owners have been able to use DestraMusic's free download site for unsigned and independent artists, MP3.com.au. MP3.com.au sends its music files as unprotected MP3s.