With Apple due to launch iTunes in Europe later today, online music competitors are lining up to try and steal some of the limelight.
Napster has signed a deal with NTL to bundle its peer-to-peer trading service for £9.95 a month from July. Users can listen to tracks from the 500,000-song library and burn them to CD for £1.09 each.
"It seemed a good fit," said Adam Howorth, communications director at Napster. "NTL is the biggest broadband provider in the country with a good track record. They also understand the importance of music to broadband users."
NTL's focus on music was further demonstrated as it signed up to On Demand Distribution's (OD2's) 'Penny a Play' SonicSelector online jukebox. Users can download from over 750,000 tracks to keep for 75p per title.
OD2, co-founded by pop star Peter Gabriel, has also signed deals with MTV, Packard Bell and Tiscali, in the UK, France, Germany and Italy. The same service will be bundled with Microsoft's MSN network.
Both OD2 and Napster are offering a limited period of low cost downloading to tempt users. OD2 customers can try the service at half price for the first two weeks, and Napster users get a month's free trial in July with NTL.
"Everyone's going to be jostling for position over the next few years," said Simon Dyson, senior analyst at Informa Media.
"Once you get a consumer tied into one service they are happy with they are likely to stay with that service, so it pays to be as high profile as possible at an early stage.
"But these songs are sold on a very low margin. The distributors will be hoping to make more money with services and exclusive deals with artists."
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