The online music wars heated up with this week's launch of a new website offering legal downloads for as low as US$0.79 a song from a library of some 300,000 tracks.
The new BuyMusic.com, billed as "the world's largest legal music download store," was launched Tuesday by Scott Blum, the founder of online retailer Buy.com, although the two companies are separate.
The site, which features music from the five major music labels, is the latest in a series of sites offering an alternative to illicit music-swapping sites which are denounced by the music industry as centers for digital piracy.
"BuyMusic.com will help turn the music industry right side up," said Blum.
"There is no other site legally offering anything of this magnitude.
The recording industry is behind us 100 percent, and consumers are about to experience a whole new revolution in the way they purchase music."
The site will allow downloads using Windows Media Player version 9.0, which can be downloaded freely. Customers will be able to hear a free 30-second preview of songs before buying, and can "burn" the songs to a compact disk or other device.
Apple Computer, which offers music downloads only to those with Apple-based computers, sold five million songs from its online music store in the first eight weeks after its April launch.
Apple, which plans to offer a version of its service for PC users soon, charges US$0.99 per song.
One service for PC users by RealNetworks offers songs at US$0.79 apiece, but requires a monthly subscription costing US$9.95.
BuyMusic.com sells individual songs from US$0.79 and albums from US$7.95 from the top five record labels and independent labels, with no subscription fees. Some popular titles cost US$0.99, however, and albums cost in a range up to about US$12.
Some of the sites launched by the major record labels have fared poorly, with consumers unwilling to pay monthly subscription fees along with charges for downloads.
The new venture won praise from the music industry as part of the effort to curb online piracy.
"This is another example of an online music service that offers consumers exciting ways to enjoy music legally," said Cary Sherman, the president of the Recording Industry Association of America, which has spearheaded the legal fight against unauthorized music-swapping.
"This is what our multi-pronged campaign against illegal file sharing is all about -- creating viable opportunities for new and existing legitimate services to grow and thrive in a dynamic online music marketplace."
Joe DiMuro, executive vice president at BMG, the music arm of German media giant Bertelsmann, said its library would be part of the new services.
"We are pleased to make our catalog available to what will be an important addition to the online music marketplace," he said.