Warner whistles a new digital tune

A new agreement will let music-technology company RioPort sell more than 30,000 titles from Warner Music's catalog for as little as 99 cents a song over the Internet.

Jim Hu Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Jim Hu
covers home broadband services and the Net's portal giants.
Jim Hu
RioPort, a music technology company, will begin selling digital tracks from Warner Music Group artists.

The agreement, announced Monday, will let RioPort sell more than 30,000 titles from Warner Music's catalog online for as little as 99 cents a song. Warner Music, a subsidiary of media giant AOL Time Warner, will let these singles be burned onto CDs or transferred onto portable devices.

RioPort will not sell the songs directly but will offer them for sale through Web sites that use its retail technology, such as BestBuy.com and MTV.com. The songs will be encoded in Microsoft's Windows Media technology, which limits the use of music files.

The agreement marks the latest partnership between a record label and a technology company. The relationship between the two industries has generally been contentious, given the record companies' animosity towards file-sharing technologies that have arguably hurt their CD sales.

Nonetheless, the rhetoric between the two sides has cooled now that services such as Listen.com, Musicnet and Pressplay are intent on selling songs granted to them by record labels and music publishers.

For Warner Music, the deal with RioPort is not the first time it has allowed another company to sell its songs online. Earlier this summer, Warner Music floated a trial balloon by letting corporate cousin America Online sell 99-cent downloads to its subscribers.

The songs, many of them unreleased tracks from popular Warner Music artists such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alanis Morissette, were encoded in the popular but unprotected MP3 format.