HMV, the U.K.'s leading high street entertainment retailer, officially re-launched its music download service hmvdigital.com today (July 26) with a price-cutting initiative.

To mark the re-emergence of the download store, which HMV closed down for rebuilding in late 2009, all entries in the current Official Charts Co.'s U.K. Top 40 singles chart were made available to purchase from www.hmvdigital.com for the discounted price of £0.40 ($0.61) per track, for an unspecified limited period.

In contrast, current single track downloads on iTunes -- the U.K.'s market-leading download store -- cost between £0.79 ($1.22) and £0.99 ($1.53). The hmvdigital promotion also undercuts online competitor www.amazon.co.uk, where the price of Top 40 single track downloads typically varies between £0.49 ($0.76) and 0.89 ($1.38).

The new hmvdigital download service, which has been in beta testing since March, is built and powered by HMV's digital partners 7digital. HMV Group paid £7.7 million (then $12.6 million) for a 50% stake in 7digital last year (Billboard.biz, Sept. 3, 2009).

The HMV platform, which has a catalog of close to 10 million tracks and includes repertoire from all four major labels, operates at www.hmvdigital.com and can also be accessed via a link from HMV's online store www.hmv.com.

In addition to the discounted Top 40 singles promotion, the hmvdigital re-launch includes a number of other price-led introductory offers. These include discounted prices on selected recent and current chart albums, including Kylie Minogue's "Aphrodite" at £5.99 ($9.27) and Gorillaz "Plastic Beach" at £3.99 ($6.18), as well as an option to download any five tracks for free using a voucher code awarded when users register with the service.

Following the introductory offers, the cost of single track downloads will revert to their normal price bands of between £0.79 ($1.22) and £0.99 ($1.53) per track. Chart albums will cost on average £7.99 ($12.37).

In a statement, HMV's head of online and digital Sarah Hughes praised 7digital for building a site containing "many innovative and wonderful features" that she hopes "will lead to HMV becoming a bigger player in the burgeoning digital market."

In the joint statement, 7digital CEO Ben Drury added: "Our deep catalogue of over 10 million high-quality MP3 tracks combined with innovations such as our download manager now makes it easier for HMV customers to discover, buy and listen to music through the Internet."

Aside from enhanced search capabilities the new hmvdigital platform also boasts a re-download facility, which records a complete history of a customer's download purchases and allows them to replace any lost tracks if, say, a user's PC crashes, at no further cost. Other features include a pre-order facility and a Download Manager function, which enables users to automatically sync purchases with their iTunes library or Windows Media Player.

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