October 13, 2004, 12:00 AM

Microsoft plans to change the music world with the launch of MSN Music

After helping to level the playing field in the digital music market last month by providing links to several retailers through its Windows Media Player, Microsoft is out to hike competition this week with exclusive features in its new MSN Music service.

After helping to level the playing field in the digital music market last month by providing links to several retailers through its Windows Media Player, Microsoft Corp. is out to hike competition this week with exclusive features in its new MSN Music service.

In addition to music from more than 3,000 independent labels, the new service is providing exclusive content from dozens of music labels, including jazz label Justin Time, soul label Malaco, the eclectic label Telarc, classical music label Delos and the Smithsonian Folkways label offering traditional folk, roots and world music, Microsoft says.

It’s also catering to the young adult market with uncut versions of albums. "The fact that MSN is offering releases such as `Back in Black` and `Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap` in their entirety ensures that fans across the United States will be able to experience these classic albums exactly as the band intended,” said Steve Barnett, executive vice president and general manager of Epic Records.

MSN Music also offers integration with Microsoft’s Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, a feature not included in an earlier beta version. And through a deal with Loudeye, a leading digital music content provider, Microsoft says it will offer its MSN Music service to 17 international markets by the end of this month.

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