Audio

Start-up reprises MP3.com music licensing

The company's former chief technology officer helps form a new company to buy the TruSonic assets and plans to launch a new music-licensing business.

MP3.com's former chief technology officer and another entrepreneur are trying to keep the company's royalty-licensing program, known as TruSonic, alive as an independent business.

Today, TruSonic--a new company founded by Daniel O'Neill, the former chief technology officer and vice president of engineering for MP3.com, and Joseph Tebo, an independent investor--announced that it had acquired the TruSonic brand and related assets from MP3.com, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vivendi Universal Net USA Group.

Prior to the acquisition, TruSonic, the company, did not exist. It was formed explicitly to reposition the TruSonic assets, said Tebo, president and chief executive officer of the new company. Tebo acknowledged that the original MP3.com business, which also provided free storage and access to music from independent artists, had problems. But he said the TruSonic side of the business, which generated revenue based on a monthly subscriptions, has great potential on its own.

"From a technology point of view, the product is very good," Tebo said. "I think, with a better marketing program, we have an excellent chance of being a major player in this business."

Launched in 2002, the TruSonic service provides digital music programming using the Internet to businesses, including offices, retailers and restaurants. Unlike traditional systems that use satellite feeds or CDs, which can require days or weeks to update, the TruSonic system enables customers to insert and change advertising or other messages at any time from a central location.

Financial details of the transaction were not available.

The acquired assets include all the hardware involved in the service, including the TruSonic Media Player, a proprietary content storage appliance deployed at customer locations and the TruSonic server farm, which connects daily to the in-store Media Players over a dial-up or high-speed Internet connection in order to upload playback histories and download new schedules and audio content.

TruSonic also bought all the related software and licenses to more than 1.5 million songs by independent artists. The company will also maintain current subscribers to the service, including large retailers, like Petco Animal Supplies, Spencer Gifts and CompUSA.

Independent of this deal, TruSonic has licensed other content from major record labels and publishers and says it intends to continue building its musical content library in order to distribute content into business environments.

MP3.com was sold to Vivendi Universal Net USA in 2001. Eventually, Vivendi Universal began selling off its online media assets. In November 2003, Internet media company CNET Networks, which also owns CNET News.com, acquired the MP3.com brand and its online database.

The database was shut down as of Dec. 2, 2003. But CNET plans to launch a service similar to the old MP3.com early in 2004. This new service will offer free storage space, uploads and downloads for artists as part of its Download.com software aggregation site.