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Rykodisc embraces MP3 format

The record label announces a deal with GoodNoise, a seller of downloadable music from the Internet, in which GoodNoise will sell Rykodisc music via MP3.

Independent record label Rykodisc today announced a licensing agreement with GoodNoise, a seller of downloadable music from the Internet, in which GoodNoise will promote and sell music from the Rykodisc's catalog using the controversial MP3 format.

Initially, GoodNoise will sell more than 175 songs from 50 Rykodisc artists at 99 cents per track. Additional tracks from the catalog will be released in the coming months.

Under the terms of the agreement, Rykodisc will provide hot-links on its Web site to bring consumers directly to GoodNoise where consumers can make their purchases. Financial terms were not disclosed.

MP3 (MPEG 1, Audio Layer 3) is a technology that allows users to download CD-quality music via the Web. But MP3 has faced stiff opposition in the past from members of the recording industry.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the music industry's lobbying arm, has expressed concern that the technology is a favorite among music pirates. But observers have noted that although it is used for illegal purposes, the technology itself is legal and its popularity has made it a de facto standard for downloading music online.

The RIAA launched an initiative late last year charged with developing a standard specification, to be embedded in any delivery technology, to ensure copyright protection.

MP3's popularity has been skyrocketing in spite of industry push-back. Just a few days ago, Web portal Lycos and Norwegian download site FAST launched MP3 Search, which allows users to search databases of MP3 audio files.

The format also has taken strides in the past few weeks toward becoming legitimized in the eyes of the music industry. GoodNoise yesterday was issued the first Digital Phonorecord Delivery License for delivering songs in the MP3 format. The license was issued by the Harry Fox Agency, the licensing arm of the National Music Publishers' Association, which has taken a hard line against Net users who violate music publishers' and songwriters' copyrights.

Also, last month, music download, news, and community site MP3.com got some strong backing with an $11 million investment, most of which came from influential venture firm Sequoia Capital.

Rykodisc said the deal with GoodNoise makes it the largest music label to adopt the format. According to SearchTerms.com, millions of copies of MP3 player software have been downloaded, and MP3 is the second-most popular search term on the leading Internet search engines.

The two companies hope that GoodNoise will stand between the recording industry and the providers of unauthorized content. Rykodisc anticipates that the result of this deal will be a reduction in unauthorized downloads and maintenance of the economic value of music.

"Rykodisc is answering the strong consumer demand for music in the MP3 format," Lars Murray, director of New Media for Rykodisc said in a statement. "We want to give the MP3 consumer a legitimate alternative to unauthorized distribution, which is already pervasive on the Internet."

Rykodisc artists include Frank Zappa, Bruce Cockburn, and Morphine, among others. GoodNoise will provide all hosting, coding, and e-commerce-related technologies to download the MP3 tracks.

"We believe this agreement provides consumers with the highest profile content ever available in the MP3 format and that it will accelerate the growth of the overall market," said GoodNoise CEO Gene Hoffman.

Several managers for Rykodisc artists also expressed support for the agreement and the use of the MP3 format.

"MP3 represents for my artists perhaps the most efficient way to distribute music that exists outside the mainstream," said Billy O'Connell, manager of Throwing Muses in a statement. "It's our belief that MP3s promote diversity in music and create the imperative to set oneself apart from the mass of music as a whole."