Listeners can download tracks without digital player.
Market-leading U.K. brick-and-mortar music retailer HMV has expanded HMV Digital, its digital-music operation, with a service that allows customers to download directly to their PC for the first time.
The new service, which launched today (Sept. 28) via a new Web site, www.hmvdigital.com, means consumers can download paid-for tracks and play them without using HMV Digital's jukebox player.
"Before, you needed to download our HMV Digital player, just like you need the iTunes and Napster player to play their music," Mark Bennett, HMV's head of digital, tells Billboard.biz. "Now we've expanded the service to give users another way of buying music from us."
The company will not disclose how the original HMV Digital, a £10 million ($19 million) operation launched amid much fanfare in September 2005, fared in terms of revenues.
Bennett would only say HMV Digital's jukebox player had 30,000 unique visitors a week. However, he added that HMV Digital also needed to be more customer-friendly. Originally, customers had to download and install the software for the digital player before they could access HMV's 2 million digitized tracks from the four major labels and indies.
To reach the digital player, they had to click on a section devoted to HMV Digital on the retailer's hmv.co.uk Web site (which customers already use for ordering physical CDs online).
But not every consumer wants to know how to install the software for a digital player to listen to digitized songs, Bennett explains. He says the new Web site, which expands on the original HMV Digital business, means online customers now have the choice to download directly with no fuss.
However, customers choosing the monthly subscription edition called HMV Unlimited will still need the HMV Digital player. The player also enables customers to play tracks ripped from their physical CDs or to burn downloaded songs to blank CDs.
HMV's pricing for digital music remains the same at £0.79 ($1.50) per downloaded track to £7.99 ($15.10) per album. HMV Unlimited costs £14.99 ($28.33) a month.
Bennett says that a marketing campaign kicking off next week will be aimed at users of hmv.co.uk, which receives 700,000 unique visitors a week.