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EMI, Snocap sell MP3s

Snocap_logo_2 Snocap finally bagged a big one. Shawn Fanning's second act announced this morning that it had signed its first agreement with a major label to distribute MP3s -- EMI, the only one not allergic to files without DRM. Snocap already has agreements with numerous indie labels and MySpace, and it recently launched an intriguing arrangement with social network iMeem to monetize shared streams. The EMI deal is of a different order of magnitude, though, because it could put Snocap's tools to work for some real musical tonnage-movers.

[This post has been updated to reflect the fact that EMI is the first label to do an MP3 distribution deal with Snocap. Previously, Warner Music Group had signed on with Snocap to distribute copy-protected WMA files.]

Emi_logo The deal enables EMI artists to use Snocap's technology to sell downloadable MP3s of their songs from their websites. The technology also lets fans put the artists' stores on their own websites and MySpace pages. Not surprisingly, the initial set of stores doesn't involve the Beatles, Radiohead, Coldplay or most of the record company's other top sellers. And even the artists who are taking part, such as Korn, aren't making their entire catalogs available.

Update: EMI called to say it's in the process of putting the stores on all of its artists' sites, or at least all the artists with whom it has digital-distribution deals.

It makes sense for EMI to give Snocap a whirl. Artist and fan sites attract the people most likely to buy music, yet they typically offer only free tracks or CDs sent through the mail. Talk about a business model stuck in the 1990s! Anyway, the Snocap-powered stores will sell individual MP3s for $1.30, with the possibility down the road to sell full album downloads. The per-track price is too high, IMHO, but at least it's an MP3 that's virtually lossless (320 Kbps encoding) and unencumbered with DRM.

Clearly, the Snocap deal is a much more welcome development than the announcement EMI made Thursday. Shudder.

And now, at the risk of betraying my age and my bloodline (on my mother's side), I'm going to paste in a Snocap-powered store for you to inspect and, perhaps, patronize. Rest assured, none of the money will go to me or my employer.


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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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