Web Service, Record Label Ink Deal

Friday, September 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — In the limitless scope of the Internet, it's little more than a blip: the next time thousands of music fans check their e-mail, they'll find a message telling them about an alternative rock band and offering a chance to listen to one of its songs.

But the mass e-mailing, the result of a deal announced Thursday between Warner Music Group and MP3.com, could hint at what's to come as record labels and the Web-based music service providers they've been battling try working together to reach consumers.

The focal point of the new partnership is MP3.com's ``singleserving'' e-mail service, which will target electronic messages to specific audiences of consumers — all of them regular users of the online music site — introducing them to new music from recording labels.

The first such mailing went out Wednesday night to hundreds of thousands of MP3.com users signed up to receive e-mail from the company, promoting VAST, a Los Angeles-based band. Included in the message is a Web link consumers can click on to listen to ``Free,'' a song from the act's second album, which will be released Sept. 12. There's also a link to buy the album from Amazon.com.

MP3.com has ``just got a great audience of music lovers, of heavy music consumers,'' said Camille Hackney, vice president of new media and marketing at Warner's Elektra Entertainment label. ``For us, it's just working with people who have access to the audience we need to reach in aggressively marketing our artists.''

What makes the collaboration somewhat ironic is that it comes as San Diego-based MP3.com, Napster and other online music providers are battling record labels over who has the right to distribute music to consumers over the Internet.

MP3.com has spent recent months fending off a suit by five major music companies, who have gone after the company because of its practice of storing thousand of musical tracks on its computers and letting users who own the albums listen to them online.

It has reached settlement with four of the companies, including Warner. But Universal Music Group has pressed its claim against MP3.com and the case is being tried in federal court in Manhattan.

The first ``singleserving'' mailings went out to a few hundred thousand people in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco where VAST's latest song is getting its first airplay. The deal will eventually let Warner tap into a database of millions of music enthusiasts with loyalty to MP3.com, said Joe Fleischer, corporate vice president for the online music service provider.

Because MP3.com's core business is providing consumers with the chance to listen to their own music collection anytime and anywhere, it also has tremendous insight into what type of music specific users listen to and where they're located, Fleischer said.

That is invaluable to record companies, who until now have promoted new music primarily via radio. Now, Fleischer said, labels will be able to reach potential buyers at home just as songs are getting airplay in specific cities, stoking enthusiasm for the record, gauging interest and offering people a chance to buy the record online.

``Its definitely a sign of mutual understanding, on our side, of beginning to understand what the record labels needs are and on the other side, record companies recognizing what the abilities of technology are and how they can use it to promote artists,'' said Fleischer, who would not disclose terms of the deal. ``We think this is really a first step.''

The e-mail deal is a sign of what may come next as adversaries become partners, allowing record labels to take advantage of new marketing opportunities using the Internet, said Eric Scheirer, media and entertainment analyst for Forrester Research.

``Traditionally, the record labels have not been very good at doing targeted marketing to their customers,'' Scheirer said. ``The Internet can take them away from that shotgun approach to a targeted approach, where consumers hear more about the music they're actually interested in.''