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Tower Bows Online Music Store

27 Jun, 2006 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Seeking to borrow a page from Apple's successful iTunes Music Store, Tower Records Tuesday announced the launch of an online digital music download store.

Tower Records Digital (tower.com/digital), which offers songs across all music genres for 99 cents and full albums beginning at $9.99 each, is in third-party discussions with the studios to offer movie and TV downloads in the near future, according to Jason Munyon, VP of business development.

Munyon couldn't detail an exact timeframe for the movie downloads, which he said are being discussed with the studios through the online store's Canadian-based backend supplier PureTrack.

“That's one of our next big initiatives to focus on,” Munyon said. “We think it is an important thing to be in. We wanted to first get a simple-to-use music store platform out there.”

Similar to iTunes, individual songs can be played, burned to a disc or downloaded to portable media and digital music players that have Windows Media-based digital rights management software.

The online music content is encoded at higher 192 kbps frequency (compared to 128 kbps at other download sites). Tower in discussions with record labels and artists to create exclusive bonus songs and material that would accompany both album downloads and in-store CD purchases.

Russ Eisenman, SVP/CMO marketing, said the online service is closely tied to Tower's historical strength of catalog and eclectic offerings, which include jazz, classical, blues, electronica, world and gospel.

Tower, which also has in-store kiosks that allow consumers to sample music, has linked the units to the online store for future retail-based e-commerce possibilities.

“It's something we are planning on in the future,” Eisenman said. “It is a kiosk strategy that is part of a larger digital media component.”

Eisenman said the biggest difference between digital downloads and packaged media is that the digital model has “flat” pricing for individual songs and albums regardless of the artist.

Digital downloads are not new to Tower, which began offering songs downloads and streaming audio samples in the late 1990s. Earlier this year, Tower launched a podcasting network, TowerPod.com.

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