|LOS ANGELES, May 2 (Reuters) - Music giants Sony Music and Universal Music on Tuesday said they had joined forces to launch a subscription-based digital music service, which experts say could be the next big trend in distributing music on the Web.
Making a similar announcement on Tuesday was music downloading company MP3.com Inc. (NasdaqNM: MPPP), which said it had launched a classical music subscription service.
These announcements followed a key victory last week for the record industry in its anti-piracy campaign when a federal judge ruled MP3.com violated copyright law with the creation of a database that lets users store music and then access it via any computer connected to the Internet.
"Listening to music via subscription is the way of the future for the music business," said Chris Montgomery, director of channel programme at MP3.com. "We have created a working "Channel" model and now we invite labels and content owners alike to join us in developing a mutually equitable system."
Sony, the music arm of Sony Corp. and Universal, owned by Seagram Co. Ltd. (Toronto: VO.TO), said they will license music and video content, potentially including streaming and downloading features, to Internet consumers using various platforms like computers, wireless personal devices, and set-top boxes. It is expected to launch within the year.
"People have been predicting this sort of format, subscription streaming, would help grow the business," said Bruce Haring, author of "Beyond the Charts, MP3 and the Digital Music Revolution."
MP3.com's Classical Music Channel's monthly fee of $9.99 includes unlimited streaming access to more than 3,400 tracks and over 300 free downloads from the collection.
"The music industry is constantly evolving to find new ways to reach our customer, the music fan," said Al Smith, Senior Vice President at Sony Music Entertainment. "We're focusing on multiple platforms and wanted to get together with another music company at this early stage."
"We're moving fast on this, but many of these new platforms are still in development. We'll roll out our service as these new devices become available," said Heather Myers, general manager at Universal Music's Global e division.
Tuesday's announcements also come as Palm Inc.(NasdaqNM: PALM) announced that all of its hand-held devices would be able to access the Web by the end of the year.