LONDON, UK (BBC) - The latest online service to move into the legitimate music download market has promised big name bands when the service launches in October. Wippit, a UK-based service, will charge users 50 for one year's access to music on its site, which is set to include tracks from artists on major and independent record labels.
The service will join two subscription services launched by the major labels themselves, which are also due to launch this autumn, plus WebAudioNet, set up by a company headed by Peter Gabriel. The sites will provide a legal equivalent of Napster, the free service that was crippled by record companies who sued it over copyright infringement.
Wippit will announce the first bands to feature on the service on 6 September.
The service's founder, Paul Myers, says he intends to work with major labels rather than compete against the services the majors are preparing to launch.
Wippit will act in the same way as an online answer to a normal record shop, stocking MP3s by artists from a range of record labels, Mr Myers told BBC News Online. "I've never seen the BMG shop on Oxford Street only go and buy BMG records," he said. "It wouldn't exist. They would put it through Tower and they would put it through HMV because they want distribution."
Mr Myers believes he can attract 500,000 users within the first year - and is asking for a subscription to be paid yearly instead of monthly to cut down on administration costs. "If this deters users from coming on, it doesn't really worry us too much," he said.
Music fans will be attracted by the fact that they can get access to music for one year for the price of four CDs, he says. Mr Myers claims to have invented the free ISP model for his X-Stream Network, which was sold to French company LibertySurf for 75m last year.
Peter Gabriel has already launched a similar digital download service for his world music record label, and the same service will be used to give fans access to music by acts including Craig David, Mis-Teeq and Baha Men in September.
Major labels Vivendi Universal and Sony are due to launch their PressPlay subscription service later this year, while the remaining majors - Warner, EMI and BMG - also aim to launch their own version, MusicNet, this autumn.
Napster is also due to be resurrected in a legal form before the end of the year.