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Innovative Distribution Service Set to accelerate growth of global digital music industy

(PresseBox) (München, ) The world of legitimate digital music took a major step forward today with the announcement that BT and Blueprint plan to jointly develop the market with a new service using Blueprint’s ‘Open Royalty Gateway’ and ‘Song Centre’ software.

This new service for hosting, managing and distributing music and related content online could substantially accelerate growth of the market to the benefit of artists, record companies, retailers and consumers alike.

It will address many of the key problems hampering the development of online music businesses, such as time to market, capital expenditure in IT and networking technologies, control of rights and the margin structure of the present models.

This new service will partner BT’s global strength in IT, networking and data storage with Blueprint’s expertise in media management software and strong music industry relationships to create a powerful and secure global digital marketplace for the music industry. Blueprint will provide the software framework and industry interface, with BT utilising its proven digital content hosting platform and international network to deliver global reach.

This comprehensive solution enables rights holders - artists, writers, publishers and record companies - to host their songs, videos, ringtones and other digital media files while allowing direct commercial relationships with retailers to drive far more innovative product offerings to the consumer. Content can be delivered directly to any number of media-enabled devices, including PCs, digital audio players and mobile phones.

The service has already been used successfully for Robbie Williams’ recent No.1 hit single ‘Radio’ with Australia and New Zealand’s leading music retailers, Sanity and Sounds. Audio, video, visual and mobile content was bundled together for sale, and linked into a competition utilising Blueprint’s referral and reward technology to drive additional opportunities to win prizes. The service is now powering the global Robbie Williams ‘Greatest Hits’ digital download store.

Simon Orme, director of sales and business development at BT Broadcast Services, said, "Our fully scaleable, secure and low-cost solution dramatically reduces the time it takes to get music, videos and ringtones to market. Offering a central, global hosting service also avoids replicate investment in IT and storage facilities in the supply chain, and allows for more effective negotiation between retailers and rights holders."

"We are offering a better, cheaper, more attractive way forward that we believe will act as the catalyst for the establishment of a thriving digital marketplace for music."

Richard Bron, CEO of Blueprint, said, "The time is right for the music industry to embrace new technologies and new partners to propel itself forward. Growth is dependent, however, on consumers being able to choose from the widest possible selection of digital media content, provided by artists from all the record companies, both major and independent."

"At the same time, we understand the clear industry requirement to be able to manage rights and digital licences, report royalties and sales to rights holders, and to offer a wide variety of digital media to consumers, using variable pricing structures."

Peter Jamieson, chairman of UK record companies’ trade association the BPI, said, "2004 is already proving to be a breakthrough year for digital music in the UK. Record companies and technology providers are working hand-in-hand to offer consumers the convenience, flexibility and choice of the online music experience. We are very excited about this latest alliance between BT and Blueprint as yet further evidence of the potential for digital music."

The Open Royalty Gateway (ORG) and Song Centre services give rights holders and retailers respectively powerful tools around which new business models for the sale and marketing of music related content can be built.

The Open Royalty Gateway allows rights holders to actively manage all aspects of their content, including setting business rules for pricing and location, electronic contract creation, sales tracking and royalty reporting. In addition to handling ‘major label’ music content, the ORG will enable thousands of independent labels and artists, many of whom control their own rights, to encode, package and upload their content to the service, and then manage contracts using the ORG.

Song Centre will give retailers the ability to offer new experiences to consumers, combining in-store, internet and mobile. In addition, powerful referral and reward programmes, using viral recommendation, mean that consumers can earn back the cost of the music they purchase by rewarding them with a commission each time one of their friends buys recommended content.

Paul Burger, formerly president, Sony Music Europe, said, "The ORG offers the most comprehensive music and artist friendly multi-platform solution and provides all stakeholders with the opportunity to offer an attractive consumer experience."

These systems are underpinned by BT’s Mediahive hosting platform, delivered by BT Broadcast Services, BT’s media solutions business. It is an integrated encoding, storage, management and distribution platform for digital TV, film, music and graphics media. Located in BT Tower, one of the world’s largest media hubs, BT Mediahive has at its core a storage area network with a capacity of three million gigabytes.