September 28, 2005

Music Service to Target At-Home High-End Listeners

LOS ANGELES -- MusicGiants Inc. will launch a new music download service on Wednesday hoping to stand out from the crowded digital audio market by appealing to high-end at-home listeners, the company said.

"We're highly focused on home audio. There's a number of ways to get portable music and that market's pretty full right now. We're just going down a whole different road," Scott Bahneman, CEO of closely held MusicGiants, told Reuters.

MusicGiants said it reached licensing deals with all the major music labels including EMI Group, Sony/BMG, Vivendi Universal and Warner Music Group for its commercial download service, which it says is the first to offer music files in Microsoft Corp's Windows Media Audio "lossless" format.

Lossless files have up to 7 times the sound quality of music files on other commercial music services, it said.

Unlike most other download services, which provide music in Windows Media Audio files at data rates of 128 to 192 kilobits per second, downloads in the "lossless" format reproduce music at up to 1100 kbps, delivering the sound of the original CD, company officials said.

The tracks will be priced at $1.29 each, as opposed to the industry norm of 99 cents and under.

In addition to providing superior playback quality, the software provides digital copyright management, it said.

Any device running Windows XP or Windows Media Player can play the downloaded files. Customers must first register online, get the software via download or CD-ROM, and open an account by paying a $50 annual fee. Incline Village, Nevada-based MusicGiants then credits new customers $50 each for music purchases.

MusicGiants has also introduced a professional-grade home music player, called the SoundVault, pre-loaded with Windows XP and the MusicGiants Network, and capable of storing about 10,000 songs in high-quality audio.

MusicGiants is marketing its service and the SoundVault through high-end electronics retailers, custom audio/video installers and online, the company said.