Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios has launched a download service and online community for audiophiles and music fans, in partnership with bespoke U.K. loudspeaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins.

B&W Music Club will offer exclusive monthly albums to members, especially recorded at Real World and downloadable in a "lossless" file format in CD-quality sound. Subscribers will pay £33.95 ($66.33) for a year, or £23.95 ($46.79) for six months, to download one such specifically-commissioned album per month.

Recordings are taped in dedicated live sessions (with studio time offered free to participating artists) at Real World and available for one month only, DRM-free.

Two months after the live sessions are first offered to Music Club members, B&W will return the album rights to the artists. The service aims to provide new acts with the chance to record to a high professional standard, and for more established artists to experiment or collaborate on side projects.

Annual subscribers will thus receive 12 albums per year for less than £3 ($5.86) each. B&W will also offer free trial memberships via its Web site. Each download will be supplied at about half the file size of a CD recording and will include printable colour sleeve artwork, enabling members to create CD albums from their downloaded files.

The first artists signed to the project are blues guitarist Skip McDonald's Little Axe collective, signed in the 1990s to Wired Recordings; singer-songwriter Gwyneth Herbert; and Grindhouse, a new collaboration between Dominic Greensmith, formerly with Sony-signed chart rock act Reef, and Gareth Hale. Another session is being recorded by Ethiopian artists under the name, A Town Called Addis, the brainchild of Transglobal Underground's Nick Page.

The service will be complemented by B&W's Society of Sound Web site, with blogs, feature articles and regular podcasts from Martyn Ware of electronic pop pioneers Heaven 17. The site will also carry video interviews with "fellows" of the project including Gabriel, composer James Newton Howard, jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, Dave Stewart and British designer Kenneth Grange.

"This collaboration with B&W is unique as far as I know," says Gabriel. "It's going to allow a lot of interesting projects to happen. For artists, Music Club is a dream proposition because they get some great time in the studio, access to really good recording facilities and can experiment without being committed to anything or anyone beyond a month with B&W."

Notes Bowers & Wilkins brand director Dan Haikin, "B&W's business is built on being passionate about music and sound quality." He adds, "In Society of Sound, we've created a meeting place for people who share our passions. The Music Club takes this a step further by providing exclusive opportunities for people hear an eclectic mix of new music from a diverse range of artists at super-high fidelity."

Bowers & Wilkins, established in the 1960s in Sussex, south of London, manufacturers high-end speakers both for audio enthusiasts and professional recording studios worldwide, including London's Abbey Road. The company recently entered into a partnership with Jaguar to provide their in-car entertainment systems.

Tagged