HMV is offering indie labels the opportunity to digitize their catalogs without charge ahead of its full-scale entry into the e-tail marketplace. The retail chain's digital service provider MusicNet

HMV is offering indie labels the opportunity to digitize their catalogs without charge ahead of its full-scale entry into the e-tail marketplace.

The retail chain's digital service provider MusicNet will handle back-end facilities for the HMV Digital service, which will launch on Sept. 5.

To start the digitalization process, Blair Schooff, director label and partner relations for MusicNet, urged indie labels to "simply box up your CDs" and send them to HMV. MusicNet will also accept already-encoded material. "We need to start working with you today," Schooff said.

The market-leading retailer yesterday (July 11) unveiled details of its HMV Digital initiative during a presentation in London for independent labels at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

During the session, HMV head of digital Mark Bennett also disclosed plans for HMV Live, in which live artist in-store performances will be made available for consumer purchase.

Bennett stressed that HMV was committed to helping to bring independent catalogs to market, mindful of the widespread view among indies that they have been under-represented thus far in the online marketplace. "We want your music to be available alongside [that of] the majors," he said.

Bennett said that every HMV store will have a digital area, for which it is currently offering full staff training. Its online service will promote full album track downloads and a subscription model, the latter under the name HMV Unlimited. Russell told label representatives that they "should consider" this model for their material.

On the issue of pricing, Bennett spoke of a sliding scale approach, but was not specific on figures. "Price repression further devalues the perception of your music," he said. "HMV will not adopt a one-price-fits-all concept." HMV Digital will employ multiple price points, including budget, standard and premium, much as its physical equivalent.

HMV is also encouraging labels to make deleted albums available again via the digital initiative. Via the digital store website, many of the United Kingdom's leading radio stations will be available for streaming, and the service will also feature playlists and genre newsletters.

Microsoft is currently in the final stages of software completion for HMV Digital. HMV plans to allow retailers to sample the service from early August.