Moves afoot in electronic music distribution

Real Networks have announced its intention to acquire for around $36m in cash ($17.3m) and stock. They’re gaining the music assets (they have around 320k tracks on their service), their technology, subscribers (however there may be) and openings to their distribution agreements with a network of more than fifteen companies.

Listen has been around a long time and I’ve always been impressed with their virtual radio station service. There can’t be huge amounts of subscribers as in the statement they detail the level of Listen losses at $1-2m per quarter. It looks like Real is strengthening itself for a fight and on that front …

There’s further talk about the Apple online music service that is slated to launch on 28th April which will only be open, initially at least, to users of Apple computers. Apple only has 3% of the computer market but this worked in their favour when try to get access to the big five record companies content for the service. The music companies felt they weren’t exposing themselves and their content to the whole World, allowing them to “dip their toes in the water” of a different, non-subscription model.

I think it’s interesting that the proposed launch date is just one day before the Vivendi meeting, where they were rumoured to be making their intention to bid for Universal. Possibly co-incidence — potentially a great way of getting free press for the service.