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Radio to get music via Net

A new single by former Beach Boy Brian Wilson will be delivered to four radio stations via the Net, according to Giant Records and Liquid Audio.

A new single by former Beach Boy Brian Wilson will be delivered to four radio stations via the Net, Giant Records and Net music delivery technology firm Liquid Audio said today.

The participating stations--WLTW in New York, WLIT and WCKG in Chicago, and Y107 in Los Angeles--will digitally download the track, "Your Imagination," and record it to CD on Hewlett-Packard's CD-Writer 7200e CD recorder (CD-R), the firms said. HP provided the CD-Rs to the radio stations for the promotion.

Although so-called remote delivery of music to radio stations through media such as satellites is not new, this is the first time it is being done via standard Internet delivery, according to Bill Woods, director of marketing communications for Liquid Audio.

Record companies "burn thousands of [promotional, single] discs, then go to the expense of hiring a courier like FedEx to deliver them," Woods said. "Now you can cut that time--not to mention the expense--down to a fraction by delivering over the Internet."

The music industry has been faced with a paradox with the advent of the Net. On one hand, the Net offers a new, relatively inexpensive distribution model as well as further channels for sales. On the other hand, the Net has presented a threat on a few fronts: Widespread international piracy has found a new home on the Net. Also, independent artists who were unable to compete with the tremendous resources of record companies now have the Net as a means to promote themselves. Sites such as the Internet Underground Music Archive have provided an outlet for these independent acts.

Although Liquid Audio is hoping this promotion will lead to other record companies and radio stations adopting the practice, the radio industry is known for being slow to invest in new technology, said Stephen Page, a former DJ who is Liquid Audio's director of broadcast interface.

"Radio traditionally doesn't spend money on anything," Page noted. "They went kicking and screaming into the computer age. It took three to four years before radio started making the transition from records to CDs."

However, Page and Woods pointed out that most stations now have computers, and many have high-speed Net connections and even Web sites of their own. For those radio stations that do want the technology to burn promotional singles onto CDs, CD-Rs such as the one being used by the radio stations in the Brian Wilson promotion cost about $400. "That's not exactly a huge cash outlay, even for radio," Page said.

But the stations that are resistant to the new technology can still take advantage of Internet delivery of singles, he added.

The Liquid Express music delivery system by Liquid Audio--a business-to-business technology that includes encryption and digital watermarking--will allow radio stations to convert the singles into .wav files and "dub them onto tape, onto a hard drive, or burn them onto a CD," Page said. The tape he referred to also is used by many stations for commercials.

If Net delivery does catch on, radio stations could be lured into adopting it by record companies offering the promotional singles first to stations that will download them, Woods said. For instance, the Wilson single will be available to the four participating stations tomorrow; other stations won't get it in the mail for two weeks.

Also on the Net music front today, N2K said its Music Boulevard store will be a featured retailer on the Microsoft Plaza online mall. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.