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BBC to launch music download store

British broadcaster plans to offer ad-supported song streams and paid downloads of recordings from its archive, ranging from studio sets to festival performances.

BBC Worldwide is developing a music download service, offering streamed-for-free and paid download works from its archive of music that bands have recorded for TV and radio in BBC studios.

The Beeb's radio and television music shows frequently feature live sessions recorded at BBC headquarters, often of current singles, acoustic versions of popular tracks, or cover versions of other artists' songs. Radio 1's Live Lounge is a popular destination for pop artists. The BBC also has exclusive rights to broadcast performances at Glastonbury Festivals.

Naturally, live performances are well-recorded by the BBC and are often replayed upon request by Radio 1. But what's better for the broadcaster than playing these tracks for no extra cost over the airwaves? Why, getting fans to pay for them, of course.

Beeb there, done that
It's not untrodden territory. BBC sessions have been featured as B sides to CD singles and as bonus tracks on albums, such as on Gomez's recently released anniversary version of the album Bring It On. And, of course, in 1994, a massive collection of The Beatles' BBC recordings was finally released on CD.

So far, major-label support for the BBC Worldwide project comes only from EMI, but Music Week reports that talks are under way with other major music publishers. A source also claimed that the earliest the service could launch is January 2009.

I'm totally behind this venture, assuming that it doesn't abuse us with DRM and low bit-rate encoding. After all, we paid for these recordings as part of our TV licenses in the first place. Well, our dads did.

The free streaming option is said to be ad-supported--a move that may annoy U.K. television license holders.

If nothing else, it'll enable smaller bands to release their BBC sessions without becoming the next Beatles or Led Zeppelin--another band that released a live BBC session CD.

Nate Lanxon of CNET UK reported from London.