June 27, 2006, 12:00 AM

Tower Records launches digital download store

Tower Records’ long-awaited music download store opens online. It features enhanced sound quality and can bundle downloads with traditional music purchases – but it doesn’t download into iPods.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

Tower Records’ long-awaited music download store opens this week at Tower.com/digital. The catalog is essentially the same as that offered by iTunes and other music download sources, but there are some key differences. Downloading the files doesn’t require users to install a software application because the download service is web-based and works within Internet Explorer. The files are served at 192 kbps versus the typical 128 kbps for enhanced sound quality.

The tunes, though they can be downloaded into a variety of file-playing devices, can’t be downloaded into iPods. But Tower is now offering online and in its 89 stores a number of other listening devices, including handhelds, that will accept the downloads from its digital store. Online at Tower, the devices can be purchased through links to online sellers such as Amazon. The tunes are priced at 99 cents per track and on a par with costs elsewhere. “There is a huge user base that does use other portable music devices, so that is who we are reaching out to now,” says a spokeswoman for Tower, No. 212 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide to Retail Web Sites .

Strategically, Tower’s download store also differentiates itself on its ability to bundle special promotions with traditional media purchases. For example, it’s set up to enable Tower to offer digital music exclusives such as downloadable extra tracks from the same artist to customers who purchase selected CDs from Tower. Such bundling is a key aspect of the new digital store, according to the company.

The download store is the latest step in Tower’s integrated digital strategy. Other recently-added elements of that strategy include the installation of interactive kiosks in Tower stores, a relationship with MySpace.com for online previews of digital material, and the launch of a podcasting network.

 

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