Net music service MP3.com thinks it has a good chance. The company today unveiled a service that will email Net music fans radio-edited songs. So instead of tuning in to the radio to hear a new single, people will be able to pull these "single-serve" songs from their email in-boxes.
MP3.com customers in select geographic markets will receive songs that are streamed over the Web, meaning the songs cannot be stored on a hard drive but instead are broadcast by MP3.com. The emails, which are free, also will include links to the artist's home page and links to places where people can purchase the CD.
MP3.com said it will begin emailing singles from Vast, a band signed by Elektra Records, a division of Warner Music Group. The company will initially email the song to a select group of registered MP3.com customers who have opted to receive promotions from the company, according to spokesman Greg Wilfahrt.
People will be targeted based on musical preference and location, and the recipients will also be able to email the song to friends.
The company plans to offer its single-serve service with other labels in the future, Wilfahrt said.
The agreement is one of the first incarnations of MP3.com's licensing deals with major record labels. Earlier this year, MP3.com lost a lawsuit brought on by the recording industry over its My.MP3.com music locker. The company has since settled with four of the "Big Five" record labels--Sony Music Group, Bertelsmann's BMG Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI Recorded Music--and has struck licensing deals estimated to be worth millions of dollars to access the labels' song libraries.
MP3.com faced swift legal action by the record industry when it created a database of 80,000 songs that could be listened to over the Internet by customers who could prove they purchased the original CD. MP3.com did not secure licensing deals with the labels before creating its database of songs.
MP3.com is in court with one remaining label, Universal Music Group, the world's largest recorded music company. The companies are battling to determine how much MP3.com must pay in damages for each copyrighted CD incorporated into its My.MP3.com service. Fines for copyright infringement range between $750 and $30,000 but can go as high as $150,000 if the judge determines MP3.com willfully infringed Universal's copyrights.
Yesterday, MP3.com's legal team tried and failed to portray Universal's lawsuit against MP3.com as an act of competitive interests. MP3.com lawyers drilled Edgar Bronfman Jr., CEO of Seagram, which owns Universal, in an attempt to show Universal was trying to run MP3.com out of business for competitive reasons.
However, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff dismissed the defense's tactics, saying the allegations were irrelevant to the case. The ongoing hearing is meant to fix a price tag on damages that MP3.com will have to pay to Universal.
For now, MP3.com is continuing its push to become a major destination for music on the Web. The site has been a breeding ground for unknown artists to showcase their music. But earlier this summer, the company re-cast its image into an "infrastructure company," meaning it will focus on providing technology services for new generations of music software and hardware.
MP3.com said the email service will become a strong marketing channel for record labels.
"The single-serving email service...gives major labels the opportunity to achieve full media saturation immediately upon the release of new music," Michael Robertson, CEO of MP3.com, said in a statement.