In a move that figures to spark price competition in the download space, Wal-Mart yesterday began selling tracks from its Web site for 88 cents apiece. The service--which launched with 200,000 songs--

In a move that figures to spark price competition in the download space, Wal-Mart yesterday began selling tracks from its Web site for 88 cents apiece. The service--which launched with 200,000 songs--is available through walmart.com and is powered by Liquid Digital Media (formerly Liquid Audio). Wal-Mart says the service is in the test phase; a formal launch is expected in 2004.

The site is skewed toward country, AC and mainstream pop acts, the most popular genres for CDs through walmart.com.

"With 64% of our customers online, we see digital music downloads as a natural extension of the music selection offered in Wal-Mart stores," says Kevin Swint, walmart.com senior category manager of entertainment media.

Liquid VP/GM Ole Obermann says customers are responding to free download offers with CDs sold at Wal-Mart stores. Consumers who bought recent titles from Britney Spears, Elvis Presley and Nickelback at Wal-Mart were offered the chance to download a free track from walmart.com. Redemption rates were 5%-10% on each offer.

The Wal-Mart download store marks the first reappearance of Liquid since its acquisition last year by Anderson Merchandisers, rackjobber to the discount retail giant.

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