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EMI amps up digital music offerings

The recording giant says that beginning July 1, it will make 100 of its albums and 40 associated singles available for download.

EMI Recorded Music soon will take its most ambitious dive yet into the waters of digital downloads.

The recording giant today said that beginning July 1, it will make 100 of its albums and 40 associated singles available for download. Music shoppers will be able to download EMI tracks and albums from online retail sites.

The move underscores the record industry's growing efforts to open its popular music libraries to digital downloading. Consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet to download their favorite songs onto computers and portable devices. Companies are eager to be a part of the action.

Several record labels already are planning to offer their songs for downloading. BMG Entertainment and Sony Music both have announced their intentions to provide digital music downloads. Seagram's Universal Music Group plans to launch a secure download format this spring that will eventually allow people to download most of the label's songs.

For EMI, the initial offerings extend partnerships the company has formed in developing its digital download strategy. EMI has teamed with Liquid Audio, Encoding.com and Supertracks to create a system that will securely download songs off Web sites.

Digital downloading of music has become a grassroots phenomenon among many Net users. Much of its popularity stems from the availability of the MP3 format, a technology that compresses files so they are small enough to deliver over the Internet. But the proliferation of MP3s has also aided widespread music piracy, allowing people to copy songs from a CD, convert them to MP3 files, and post the tracks on the Web.

The recording industry has taken legal action against companies such as MP3.com and Napster over the piracy issue.

As part of today's announcement, EMI said it has selected several of its most popular artists to kick off the trial, including D'Angelo, DC Talk, Janet Jackson, Pink Floyd, Selena, Frank Sinatra, Snoop Dogg, Spice Girls and Tina Turner.

In addition, EMI said it will use Microsoft's Windows Media technology to deliver its downloads. Windows Media is an audio format that people can use to download or stream off the Internet. The technology also lets companies distribute security features to curb potential piracy.

Digital album prices will be similar to prices in retail stores, the company said.

"Digital delivery will eventually become part of our standard release pattern," Ken Berry, CEO of EMI, said in a statement. "We are committed to making high-quality music available to the consumer in a variety of media."

EMI plans to merge with Time Warner, creating a $20 billion music powerhouse.