As expected, the German music industry today (March 18) launched its digital music platform <A HREF="http://www.billboard.com/bb/biz/newsroom/digital/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000449058">Pho

As expected, the German music industry today (March 18) launched its digital music platform Phonoline with a presentation at the CeBIT technology exhibition in Hannover. The gathering was attended by German chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Phonoline -- which is powered by T-Com, Deutsche Telekom's fixed network subsidiary -- rolled out with a library of 250,000 titles from all five majors and various independents. It claims to be the first B2B service from the music industry to offer an extensive range of music from majors and indies on a single technical platform.

Bernd Dopp, president of Warner Music Germany, calls the initiative the "dawning of a new era in the marketing and distribution of music."

Phonoline can be used by all music companies that license their repertoire, and is available to all Internet retailers for reselling. Web merchants can either open their own Phonoline stores or add the tracks to existing services. Each company can implement its own price per download.

Customers have a variety of payment options, from telephone bills to prepaid cards, enabling those who do not have credit cards to participate.

The service is heralded as an industrywide solution to Germany's crippling illegal download problems.

German shipment figures for 2003, to be released at the end of April, are expected to reveal a contraction of 20% from the previous year. Sources indicate that the German market for first-quarter 2004 will have shrunk by double-digit rates again.

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