AOL, Liquid Audio offer music download software

America Online agrees to begin distributing a plug-in developed by Liquid Audio to allow users to preview, buy and download music from software provider's catalog.

Jim Hu Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Jim Hu
covers home broadband services and the Net's portal giants.
Jim Hu
2 min read
America Online today agreed to begin distributing a plug-in developed by Liquid Audio throughout its Web music software properties, marking another step in the online giant's bid to become a major online music destination.

The software plug-in will allow users of AOL's Winamp Web music player to preview, buy and download music from Liquid Audio's full catalog of more than 50,000 songs. The Liquid Plug-in, as the software is called, will not only deliver music to Winamp users, but also will offer music lyrics, album liner notes and album cover art.

In addition, Liquid Audio will offer music to AOL Web radio broadcaster Spinner.com's Playlist-to-Go feature. The songs will be delivered in Liquid Audio's Liquid Tracks secure download format and in the popular MP3 download format as well.

The agreement will give AOL's Winamp users access to a sizable library of copyright-protected songs and will provide Liquid Audio with a strong distribution network for it products, the companies said.

"This alliance with Liquid Audio underscores both companies' commitment to remaining format-agnostic and providing users with the ability to play back and enjoy all types of digital music," Justin Frankel, founder of AOL's Nullsoft Winamp, said in a statement.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Today's announcement was viewed favorably on Wall Street, sending Liquid Audio shares up as much as 34 percent. The company's shares closed up 5 points, or 19.14 percent, at 31.13.

Liquid Audio develops software that allows its users to distribute, sell and listen to copyright-protected music on the Web.

Online piracy has been a long-standing issue between the recording industry and online pioneers. But the music industry and the Internet have slowly converged this year in trying to push online music distribution and promotion to the forefront of the mainstream consumer market.

One issue at hand between the music industry and technologists has been the prevalence of the MP3 file compression format. Although the controversial technology has become a de facto standard among Web music's early adopters, it also has been a favorite of music pirates.

Nonetheless, Internet companies are not standing on the sidelines. AOL this year acquired Spinner.com and Nullsoft, which developed Winamp, for $400 million and merged the two companies.

Other Web media companies have been scurrying to position themselves for the growing popularity of online music. In the summer, Yahoo launched Yahoo Digital, which lets users listen to and download music. And in the fall, Web portal Lycos unveiled Lycos Music, which features an MP3-searchable database, the Lycos Radio Network, and the recently acquired Sonique audio player.