The German music industry's long-awaited online distribution platform Phonoline will go live March 18, the first day of the CeBIT technology exhibition in Hannover, some six months after the service's

The German music industry's long-awaited online distribution platform Phonoline will go live March 18, the first day of the CeBIT technology exhibition in Hannover, some six months after the service's original planned launch date.

German concert ticket agency CTS Eventim and retail chain Saturn have struck exclusive arrangements to act as the first partners for the platform. Additional partners will be signed up after launch.

The launch of the legitimate download initiative, heralded as an industry-wide solution to the Germany's crippling illegal download problems, has been plagued by delays. German industry leaders had hoped to launch the project in time for the Popkomm industry fair in Cologne last August. Having missed that goal due to technical hitches, organizers switched attention to a launch date in time to take advantage of the Christmas trade, an opportunity that was also missed.

Phonoline is expected to start with a library of 250,000 titles, with repertoire from all five majors and various independents. The offering is expected to be increased to 700,000 by the end of 2004. Downloads will be priced between €1.19 ($1.49) and €1.99 ($2.47).