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Labels tune into Liquid Audio

More than 50 independent record labels and artists commit to using the company's technologies for delivery and sales of music online.

More than 50 independent record labels and artists have committed to using Liquid Audio products for promotion and sales of music over the Internet, the company announced today.

The announcement was made on the opening day of the influential South by Southwest music and media conference in Austin, Texas.

Music has become a hot market space on the Internet, with established sites such as N2K and SonicNet broadening both their content offerings and their retail partnerships.

Big players in the retail space, such as N2K's Music Boulevard and CDnow, have formed strategic alliances with giants such as Yahoo and America Online to reach those firms' large audiences.

Although analysts have said music sales still represent a small fraction of the multibillion-dollar music industry, companies have flooded to the Net in an effort to cash in on what is a promising area for Net commerce.

Moreover, the Net has proven to be fertile ground for independent artists and smaller record labels searching for less expensive means of distributing their efforts. Pioneer sites such as the Ultimate Band List and the Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA) have been on the Net for several years and have garnered loyal followings and active communities.

Because of the explosive growth of music online, technologies to deliver it effectively and with high sound quality are in demand. Protecting artists from copyright violations has been another issue for labels and artists on the Net, and industry organizations such as ASCAP and BMI in response have stepped up their efforts to stay current.

Liquid Audio, which was among the first to offer music delivery technology, focuses on providing the industry with software tools and technologies that enable the distribution of CD-quality music securely over the Net. Others, such as RealNetworks, also have focused on music delivery technologies.

Among the record labels that announced their support for Liquid Audio technologies today are 911 Entertainment, Aegean Records, ARK 21, Art & Soul, Dedicated Records, PopMafia, Razor & Tie Entertainment, Rounder Records, STV Sessions, and Twin/Tone Records, according to Liquid Audio.

The artists and labels backing the company are part of its Indie1000 program, aimed at making its products more accessible to smaller, independent music businesses by lowering its prices to qualifying companies.

Liquid Audio plans to expand the program into a Web music syndicate and distribution network, along the lines of what IUMA and indie site The Unsigned have done. It also will aggregate content from affiliate retail and label sites. Liquid Audio expects to launch that effort later this spring.

In related news, Liquid Audio yesterday announced the release of an updated version of its Liquid MusicServer, Liquifier Pro, and Liquid MusicPlayer. The company said the upgrade added improved security, compatibility, and ease of use.