Music Choice Uploads Bowie CD

Multiplatform digital-audio service Music Choice wrapped upa two-week offer last week allowing its Web-site visitors to purchase a full-lengthcompact disc of David Bowie's new hours album via music download.

Music Choice plugged the offer as the first full CDdownload available from a major recording artist.

The offer expired last Monday night just before midnight,when the album became available for retail sale. Music Choice was one of more than 50online retail-music sites testing sales of the download with Bowie's record label,Virgin Records America.

The suggested retail price for the test was $17.98 peralbum download, including a bonus song, "No One Calls," which is not found onthe CD at retail. Music Choice charged its subscribers $12.99 for the download.

Music Choice has about 10 million digital-cable anddirect-broadcast satellite subscribers, which still drive the majority of new traffic toits Web site, president Dave Del Beccaro said.

DirecTV Inc. helped to spread the word about the Bowiedownload through a customer e-mail, and cable-modem service Road Runner promoted thedownload on its Web page.

Music downloads give Road Runner "a way to prove totheir customer base why they need high speed," Del Beccaro said. He added that he wasable to download the Bowie album in less than 10 minutes using a high-speed connection,but the process could take two hours or more using a 28.8-kilobit-per-second dial-upmodem.

Music Choice will continue selling CDs via music downloads.Last week, the company announced that it began selling albums by unsigned artist KathyFisher and acoustic band Naked to the World on its Web site.

In the future, Music Choice plans to cross-promote artistsbetween its cable channels and its Web site, using showcase channels to drive cable andDBS subscribers to the Internet. Some of the music downloads available on the Web will befree, value-added offers created especially for customers of Music Choice cable or DBSaffiliates.

Citing a nondisclosure agreement, Del Beccaro could notrelease buy-rates for the Bowie download. But he did say the record label did better thanit had predicted.

Music downloads are still in their infancy. "Mostpeople don't even know what a download can be," Del Beccaro said, adding thatthe portable equipment allowing consumers to download music and carry it with them fromtheir PC to their car -- or wherever they prefer to listen -- is just starting to becomeavailable at consumer-electronics stores.

Del Beccaro believes convergence will help to drive musicdownload sales, and digital cable and DBS will do better than traditional Internet sitesbecause of their high speed and bandwidth.

Music Choice can help to drive sales of music downloads forits affiliates by creating an environment where customers regularly go to listen to music.

"If you believe that in the future, people willconsume music as they listen to it, we're uniquely positioned going forward,"Del Beccaro said.

As convergence and electronic commerce become a largerfocus for the company, Music Choice plans to share revenues from transactions such asmusic downloads with its cable and DBS affiliates.