Australia gets first music subscription service

LoadIt store offering more than 1 million tracks

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Market leading CD and DVD retailer Sanity Entertainment has launched what it says is Australia's first online music subscription service. The company has licensed the digital catalog of all the major labels.

The LoadIt music store is built into Microsoft's Windows Media Player 11 and boasts more than 1 million music tracks -- 20%-25% of them will be by domestic acts.

For AUS$29 ($26.26), subscribers can download as many as 300 tracks a month to three registered PCs and two portable media players. The cost works out to 10 cents per track. Apple's iTunes and Telstra's BigPond stores charge AUS$1.69 ($1.47) a track.

Tony Quinn, Sydney-based general manager of LoadIt Ltd. said that as providers of the country's first subscription service, Sanity's challenge is to convince music fans that it will be quicker, easier and provide more access to new music than other download services.

"If this proposition is presented to the customer in a way that makes sense, they'll take it on," Quinn said. "The solution will come through education at retail. Australians understand the concept of (subscribing to) pay TV and magazines, so why not for music?"

The service will also be offered through kiosks shortly. Sanity Entertainment has 220 bricks-and-mortar stores that includes the Sanity, HMV and Virgin Megastore brands. It has a market share of about 22% to 25%, according to label executives. It has trialed 50 kiosks in its stores in the past two years.

Sanity also signed a three year deal with digital photo center supplier Fujifilm, meaning LoadIt will also be available through the 6,000 Fujifilm digital kiosks installed in over 750 nonmusic stores around the country.

Negotiations are also taking place with mass merchants to deliver the service through their systems.

LoadIt was initially to be unveiled in January 2007 and had its launch date delayed twice for technology reasons.

Sanity's strategy is to eventually deliver the service through online computer games, cell phones and bundled as part of broadband services. This will allow it to introduce a multi-tiered pricing system for a number of various services. These could include consumers who buy a concert ticket being able to download the act's back catalog and artists educating new fans about their music.

Customers are offered a free 14-day trial. Those signing up for a 12-month plan are eligible for a free portable music player to store their music. However, the service will not be available to Apple Mac and iPod users and the Windows Media format has more restrictions than MP3.

John Gillhespy, Sydney-based consumer partner development manager of Microsoft Australia, said in a statement, "The vast majority of PCs use Windows Media Player, and it has become one of the most popular ways for people to enjoy digital music. Using Sanity LoadIt is like adding an entire music store to your PC that offers access to all the music you could want 24/7, along with information on bands and playlists."
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