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Virgin launches music Web site with a twist

The company launches a Web site that makes it possible for users to skip the process of downloading and have music delivered directly to their personal computers.

Virgin today launched a Web site that makes it possible for users to skip the process of downloading and have music delivered directly to their personal computers.

Like other Net music Web sites, Virgin JamCast offers downloadable digital music. It also offers CDs for sale from Virgin Megastore Online and community features through which music enthusiasts can communicate.

But JamCast said that what sets it apart is a feature using "multicasting" technology that allows consumers to work on their PCs or surf the Web while music files are delivered through the background and played over a live Internet connection.

As previously reported, Virgin JamCast is the fruit of a deal between Virgin and Wavo, whose technology "enables the efficient broadcasting of digital entertainment over the Internet and eliminates the hassles of downloading music files," the companies said in a statement.

Consumers who have access to multicast-ready networks such as MCI WorldCom, GTE or MSN and who download the free Wavo Digital Entertainment Receiver, available on the Virgin JamCast Web site, can have music broadcast to them automatically, the companies said. In addition, consumers can choose which music genres they wish to receive and the amount of disk storage they want to allocate for music files.

Still, Virgin JamCast's service, though versatile, may prove difficult to use. The company is offering music in numerous formats, and each music company can specify different terms for previewing individual tracks. As a result, one company might allow users to listen to tracks three times, while another would let them do so for three days.

That system could confuse consumers, who are used to buying a CD and being able to play it in any CD player, regardless of which record company released it.

Virgin JamCast can be accessed directly by aspiring musicians, the company said. Those who wish to distribute their music through Virgin JamCast can simply fill out a form and upload their music to the Web site, where it will be placed in one of 13 genres. Several other Web sites, including MP3.com and RollingSone.com, offer themselves as distribution channels for independent artists.

In related news, Virgin JamCast said it has partnered with BPI Communications, publisher of Billboard magazine and the Hollywood Reporter, to provide news and information about the music business.