Universal, Sony Roll Out Digital Music ServiceL

Vivendi Universal and Sony Music Entertainment have entered into a non-exclusive agreement to distribute and market their new digital music subscription service, Duet, through internet portal Yahoo!,

Vivendi Universal and Sony Music Entertainment have entered into a non-exclusive agreement to distribute and market their new digital music subscription service, Duet, through internet portal Yahoo!, Billboard Bulletin reports. The service, slated to roll out this summer in the U.S. and globally by year's end, will initially offer only streaming subscriptions. Ultimately, consumers will be able to choose from tiers of options for streaming, downloads, or both. Pricing will be disclosed at launch.

The Yahoo! announcement marks the first public acknowledgement of Duet since Sony and Universal announced plans for a joint-venture subscription service last year. The company will be run as a New York-based stand-alone business to which Sony and Universal Music Group will license their content on a non-exclusive basis.

Duet consumers will be able to share playlists, and certain subscription offerings will eventually include the option to transfer music from a PC to approved portable devices.

Technology partners for Duet have not been announced; however, the companies say they are working with several companies. "We've been working with various [technology] partners in the discreet downloading business, and those providers are working toward this end with us," said Mike Bebel, executive VP at Universal's eLabs division. Microsoft and Reciprocal are Sony's partners in its download business; RealNetworks, InterTrust and Magex are the leading partners on Universal's bluematter download offering.

In other online music news, details of Napster's new security system are beginning to emerge with news that the file-swapping company is developing a file type that will curb the trading of MP3 files. According to a Bertelsmann eCommerce Group spokesman, when the revamped Napster service launches July 1, MP3 files on the system will be converted into new "Nap" files, which can be heard only with a Napster-branded player. The player will be embedded in new software that is under development for the subscription service..