July 23, 2004  (STAR) By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla  -  Asian online music impresario,, has beaten Apple Music and Sony in offering the first digital music Internet store in the region. The first store in Singapore will be followed by similar ones in Hong Kong and India.

In Asia, where music piracy prevails, the existence of an online option where enthusiasts and music fans can buy their music legally online song by song is a welcome innovation., which has been in existence since 1999 as a portal where regional musicians post their music for download, was recently relaunched as a music e-tailer with an initial library of 250,000 songs that will be sold at S$2.30 per song, and S$18.50 per album

Windows WMA Instead Of MP3

The songs are encoded in Windows WMA format and not on MP3. This enables DRM or Digital Rights Management to limit the number of copies that can be made from each song.

If Soundbuzz proves success-ful in this business, it is certain to open its doors to the rest of the region or be copied by similar companies in tech savvy Asian countries. Soundbuzz has an even mix of top Western popular music acts as well as a host of regional Asian musicians which differentiate it from the services, of say, iTunes and Sony. Sound-buzz is also teaming up with Creative Labs, whose iPod-like digital music device, the Zen Touch player, is an ideal partner for the Soundbuzz software.

While global CD sales last year saw a seven per cent drop, and retailers like Tower Records in the US went into bankruptcy, an online merchant like iTunes Europe sold over 800,000 tracks in its first week when it was launched last month.

Zen vs. iPod

A key feature in Zen Touch, and all upcoming players from Creative, is an interface that makes it easier to transfer songs from Soundbuzz. Once a Creative portable music device is connected to the computer, users can access the interface to automatically copy the purchased song into the portable device. If you are using a non-Creative player, you have to download and then transfer the tune yourself.

The idea closely resembles Apple Computer’s iTunes online music store, where users download songs at a price onto Apple’s popular iPod digital music player in services available only in the United States and Europe. Apple just made its iPod Mini, a 4GB credit-card sized version of its player, available worldwide last week. Demand for the diminutive player has consistently outstripped supply.

Apple has yet to announce plans for an Asian iTunes online music store, while Sony said it has no plan to build an Asian version of its "Connect" music stores, although it sells some music online through a site in Singapore.

But music labels are clamoring for growth in a region dominated by music piracy.

Soundbuzz expects to launch similar services in India and Hong Kong this year, estimating Hong Kong’s 6.8 million people would download about a million songs a year. India could be about twice the size of Hong Kong’s market within two years.

Nine Of Ten Are Fake

Taiwan accounts for 80 percent of Mandarin-language music sales worldwide, but half of all music sold in the past two years was pirated, while nine of every ten recordings in China were fakes, industry data showed.

The start of Taiwan’s fee-based online music market could be delayed by two years as the music industry battles in court with peer-to-peer networks, where surfers can download an entire ten-track album in 15 minutes., which is based in Australia and partners with telephone company Telstra, will bill customers through Internet service providers rather than credit cards, hoping this easier form of billing will spur growth. This sort of business can be copied and adapted in other countries in Asia.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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