EMI today announced that they are to offer 160 00 tracks for digital download via 20 distribution partners. Although the exact details are not yet clear, it seems that consumers will be able to carry out a significant degree of burning and permanent ownership. The devil will be in the detail, but any move in this direction is to be welcomed.
One question this initiative raises is just what do the major record labels have in mind for Europe? It seems that EMI have been a little more generous with the amount of content made available for their service than they have previously granted to third party distributors such as OD2. This is not to say EMI have been any more of less generous with OD2 than most of the other majors as all have been equally stingy. However, it does seem they saved the best for themselves – which is understandable enough but it does make you wonder how seriously they are taken the third party providers.
To be fair to EMI, they have been among the most proactive and innovative players in the digital arena – due in no small part to their need to counter the advantage other labels gain from their parent companies. But EMI would be ill advised to go it alone online. Choosing a wide variety of distribution partners is an important move, but it should be accompanied with EMI making such depth of catalogue available to other aggregators.
EMI are setting the standard for the amount of content which should be made available for digital distribution, but they and their fellow majors should be equally generous with third party aggregators if they are to have any hope of stimulating Europe’s fledgling online music market.