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RealNetworks finds new outlets for jukebox software

In a sign that retailers can no longer ignore the popularity of Net music, several big-name stores team with the streaming media giant to carve a place in the growing digital distribution market.

    In a sign that retailers can no longer ignore the popularity of Net music, several big-name stores have teamed with RealNetworks to carve a place in the growing digital distribution market.

    Under a partnership program announced today, retailers including TransWorld Entertainment, Virgin JamCast & Megastore and The Wherehouse each will be able to extend their online music sales to RealNetworks' estimated 25 million listeners.

    In return, the music retailers can download and sell custom versions of RealNetworks' RealJukebox music software through more than 3,300 stores and via their Web sites.

    "This is a fairly significant deal for RealNetworks," said Michael Goodman, a music analyst with The Yankee Group based in Boston, Mass. "This is expanding places people get their music."

    Fearing piracy, the entertainment industry initially gave a chilly reception to software that makes music, videos or other copyrighted works available for digital download. But it has become clear that the popularity of online content--and its potential payoff--cannot be overlooked.

    Liquid Audio announced yesterday that it has set its sights on the growing in-store digital distribution market through a channel called the Liquid Kiosk Network, which allows customers to preview and purchase music as digital singles and create custom CDs.

    In addition, two major music suppliers, Valley Media and New Media Network, yesterday agreed to collaborate in a move aimed at bringing a vast catalog of popular tracks to stores via kiosks.

    In the RealNetworks deal, each music retailer's custom RealJukebox will provide consumers with direct links to their favorite music stores.

    The retailers also will offer music downloads on their Web sites using Rich Metadata Packages, technology that allows a person access to information such as album cover art, liner notes and artist photos.

    RealNetworks believes that partnerships like the ones announced today will occur with more regularity, according to a company manager.

    "This is another piece of the puzzle to digital distribution," said Chris Otto, the product manager for RealJukebox. "This year we expect to see a lot more of these types of relationships as the labels become more serious about the space."