Stan Witold, former business development director of French indie distributor Night and Day, is launching a new music company.

Sounds will focus on online and physical distribution, and on publishing and consulting services. Licensing and production will also be considered, he says.

Witold says pricing is crucial. "I am convinced that people are not willing to pay more than €15 ($20) for a CD. Distributors and producers need to have the courage to reduce their margins. With appropriate marketing, sales will follow."

Sounds will work in niche markets, in any music genre, paying particular attention to international sales.

The first release through the new company is the DVD of metal festival Hellfest, held in Clisson (France) in June 2006, for which Sounds has distribution rights for continental Europe.

It will be released locally by French label Snatch Music on April 6, carrying a retail price of €18 ($24). It will roll out a few weeks later in other European countries, with Witold currently negotiating with distributors.

Serge Forté's jazz album "La Bohème," via Ella Productions, will follow.

Witold also plans to launch an online CD store in May and a download store later this year, both available in French and English at launch. Chinese and Spanish-language versions are expected to arrive in 2008.

Witold, who funded Sounds with a bank loan, is working with two former label managers from Night and Day, which went bankrupt last July. "The storm [the music industry is in] is a huge one," he says. "Only those with appropriate sails will be able to survive."