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Net music firms go global

Net music companies increasingly are looking outside the United States for eyeballs and revenues, as illustrated by two new announcements.

Net music companies increasingly are looking outside the United States for eyeballs and revenues, as illustrated by two announcements today.

Net music company SonicNet will announce tomorrow it is launching in Switzerland, in a partnership with Swiss ISP Blue Window. SonicNet already has local sites for Japan and Australia.

N2K, another Net music player, has expanded its international dealings today as well, with a partnership with Latin American online network StarMedia to create a music retail area aimed at the Latin American market.

Music companies on the Net are fighting hard to create strong brands and, in turn, garner market share and much-needed money. So far, analysts predict that the already-crowded Net music space is making up only a tiny fraction of the $40 billion-per-year music business.

SonicNet's new site, scheduled to debut this spring, will be available in English, French, German, and Italian. It will feature multimedia components including song and video clips as well as interview sound bites, SonicNet's Music News of the World section, and local music reviews and articles by the company's staff in Switzerland, according to the company.

"With the addition of Swisscom's Blue Window site, SonicNet now has a network of strong partners in Asia, Australia, and Europe," Nicholas Butterworth, president of SonicNet, said in a statement. "The local versions of SonicNet in these regions will enable a large audience around the globe to access daily music news, high-profile audio and video Internet broadcasts, and an extensive archive of music videos."

SonicNet, which runs music site Addicted to Noise and music video site Streamland, was purchased by the music arm of Tele-Communications, Inc. in December. Some have speculated that SonicNet's ownership by a conservative media giant like TCI could curb its carefully cultivated cutting-edge image. (See related story)

Under the terms of N2K's new deal, it will partner with StarMedia Network to develop Spanish and Portuguese language versions of N2K's Music Boulevard online store. Users will be able to purchase music online through two cobranded music areas on the StarMedia Network: "Plaza Musical" in Spanish and "Praca Musical" in Portuguese. The two versions of Music Boulevard are scheduled to launch this quarter.

Along with e-commerce, the sites will offer news, CD reviews, charts, and samples, according to StarMedia.

"We are committed to expanding the international reach of Music Boulevard and welcome StarMedia to our growing roster of international partners, which already includes MTV International, AOL Japan, and Grolier Interactive," J.J. Rosen, senior vice president of N2K, said in a statement.

N2K, whose Net properties include Rocktropolis and Jazz Central Station, already has foreign language versions of some of its channels. The company earlier this month announced an expansion of the Japanese version of Music Boulevard, in which Japanese music retail chain Shinseido Incorporated added more than 175,000 local-language music titles to the online store. Music Boulevard recently became the exclusive online music store for MTV Europe, MTV Brazil, MTV Japan, and MTV Asia.

The Latin American market could prove to be lucrative, as well. According to a study by Nazca S&S, the Latin American arm of Saatchi & Saatchi, 34 million Latin Americans will have Web access by the year 2000, a 4250 percent increase from 1995.