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Download Site Inaugurates Retail Kits

Music download site eMusic is turning to the brick-and-mortar retail channel as part of a new promotional push.

The company, whose subscription-based service sells unprotected MP3-format songs by independent artists, launched a $14.99 CD jewel-box size retail kit through Circuit City. The four-color package includes the first month of a monthly subscription, collector’s cards that include biographical information on independent artists, editorial on related artists and styles, and a “how-to” download guide. The starter subscription features 65 downloads per month plus 25 free downloads at sign-up.

In the past, the company has teamed with retailers to offer free trials, and it sold some prepaid download cards through CompUSA. “We have had free-trial and prepaid-download cards in other brick-and-mortar outlets, but this is the first aggressive push we’ve made into retail,” said an eMusic spokeswoman. “The retail kit is our first major retail push and is being supported by substantial marketing and in-store displays.”

The kit is available in more than 625 consumer electronics superstores in the United States, and eMusic plans kits for other retailers, she said without naming the retailer.

eMusic artists featured in the kit include Frank Zappa, Leadbelly, Spoon, Sonny Rollins, Dashboard Confessional, Bjork, Dizzee Rascal and All Saints Records. Other independent artists in eMusic’s roster include Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, and recent indie rock hit groups such as Belle & Sebastian and Neko Case. The roster also includes bands trying to get started in the business. Labels with artists featured in the retail kit are Merge, Rykodisc, Prestige, Vagrant, XL Recordings, Smithsonian and All Saints.

eMusic’s unprotected MP3 files play on any MP3 portable and on a PC through any music-management application, including Windows Media Player, iTunes, Winamp, Musicmatch and RealPlayer.

Delivering more than 4.5 million downloads per month, eMusic features over 1.2 million tracks from established and emerging artists in every genre from the world’s leading independent labels.

Three tiers of subscriptions consist of a $9.99/month basic subscription with 40 downloads per month, the $14.99/65-download monthly option, and a top-tier $19.99/month subscription for 90 monthly downloads. The company also offers a range of annual and two-year plans, some of which include a free MP3 player from Creative Labs.