VH1, Nicks Bundle Streaming with CD

VH1.com, the online arm of music network VH1, last Monday began taking orders for the new Stevie Nicks album, offering customers early access to all of her upcoming album Trouble in Shangri-La, via audio streams on the Web site.

Through the new "VH1 Hear Music First" electronic commerce initiative, e-shoppers who buy a compact disc from the Web site can listen to an audio stream of the same album for a limited period. The Nicks' CD is set to hit record stores and mailboxes on May 1. VH1 will receive an undisclosed percentage of these online album sales.

"We're not setting up two competing products," VH1.com senior vice president and general manager Fred Graver said. "You're buying the CD and getting the opportunity to listen to the album online first."

Once consumers order the CD online, they are given a password that allows them to listen to the audio stream from any personal computer. The password, which expires seven days after the compact disc ships to the customer, also affords early access to album artwork, lyrics, liner notes and interviews. The album is not downloadable and thus cannot be copied to an MP3 player or other digital audio device.

The new album is priced online at $15.99, a discount off the list price of $18.97. The promotion runs through May.

Graver said VH1 spent a lot of time talking with music labels, artists and consumers about how to sell music online.

"Some users say that music downloads and MP3 are just not as good quality as a CD," Graver said.

But VH1 has seen demand for online music from its audience. Graver added that adults 18 to 49 — the network's core audience — are comfortable giving credit card information online and have experience with such electronic-commerce sites such as Amazon.com.

To help promote the new "Hear Music First" e-commerce site, VH1 is running on-air spots. Also, Nicks is being hyped as "artist of the month" on the network. Her new and library music videos are in significant rotation.

Online, Nicks' fans can sample 30-second streams from three of the album's 13 songs. The album's site also is supported by an exclusive interview with the artist, as well as links to a fan club.

"We would like by the end of the year to have enough albums launched each month to have VH1.com be the place to look first for new titles," Graver said.