|Press Release—For Immediate Distribution|
IRS, United Airlines Launch Free Online Music Service
LAS VEGAS, January 23rd /BANewswire/ -- The US Internal Revenue Service, United Airlines Inc. (subsidiary of UAL Corporation, Nasdaq: UAUA), Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), and other major corporations have teamed up with global Internet communications company Skype™ (subsidiary of Ebay, Nasdaq: EBAY) to offer a new, completely free online music service that is likely to once again turn the volatile online music industry on its head.
With a combined existing user base of over 200 million customers, this new offering has certainly grabbed the attention of established players Apple Computer Inc. iTunes (Nasdaq: AAPL), Yahoo! Inc. MusicMatch (Nasdaq: YHOO), RealNetworks Inc. Rhapsody (Nasdaq: RNWK), and Napster Inc. (Nasdaq: NAPS). The release of the service is also likely to overshadow the recent announcement of the amazonmp3™ online music service from Amazon Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Sony Corporation's BMG Music Group (NYSE: SNE).
The new service, dubbed MusicWithoutEnd™, is significantly easier and cheaper to use than existing services, but at the same time it is completely legal. There is no registration process, no per-song fee and no monthly fee. Customers can listen to a song as many times as they like, meaning that the system is free from the Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology which has greatly limited customer acceptance of competing services. Customers simply download the Skype™ internet telephony application and choose from a set of toll-free telephone numbers already established by the music providers.
Upon connecting with the service, the user is presented with a short message from the music provider, followed by a free music selection, which typically plays for several minutes but in some cases (particularly with the offering from the Internal Revenue Service) may play for as many as 40 or 50 minutes.
A new and truly innovative feature of MusicWithoutEnd™ is the integration of the music service with high-level customer-oriented services. For example, customers using the IRS's music service are, at very infrequent intervals, given the opportunity to check the status of their tax refunds and order blank return forms. Bank of America's music service, which is available in both English and Spanish, will occasionally ask music listeners if they would like to reorder checks and in some cases even open new accounts. In all cases, listeners can opt out of the special service offerings by asking to be returned to the music.
Initial fears that customers of these music services might be put off by what essentially amounts to advertising were allayed when a recent survey by Accenture Inc. (formerly Andersen Consulting) concluded that the services actually deliver music over 96% of the time. "On average, we found that the music is interrupted less than 4% of the time that the customer is connected with the service," reads the Accenture report. "That's significantly less interruption than internet and terrestrial radio service, where advertising may occupy up to 39% of the overall airtime. We see a real potential for a sea change in the online music industry."
Home and Mobile Offering
The MusicWithoutEnd™ alliance has also jumped ahead of other music services in offering both a home-based music solution and a mobile music solution in its initial release. Customers with mobile handsets, phone-equipped PDAs, and even fixed-line telephones can also access the service, again at no charge whatsoever. "If there was ever an example of strategic technology and communications convergence, this is it," says United Airlines' Chief Music Officer, A. G. Gershwin. "We are riding the wave of 4G services, VOIP, and streaming media by monetizing our long-established core competency of delivering large amounts of music to our customers at no charge."
Unlimited Content Possibilities
Although the possibilities are endless, the current content offering focuses on the classical and easy-listening genres. Music providers are currently exploiting a little-known loophole in the law by which they are not required to obtain licenses for redistribution. Industry experts expect many challenges to this legal basis in the months ahead.
Unified Music Search Portal
A key part of the MusicWithoutEnd™ alliance's strategy is a unified website at http://lurkertech.com/music-without-end where users can search for the music they want and be directed to an appropriate music provider. This music portal service is also offered for free and represents a cross-corporate aggregation of music catalogs that will deliver economies of scale not matched by the competing services.
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