Other Music adds MP3 downloads to its site

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Specialty music retailer Other Music is adding MP3 downloads to its e-commerce site this month in a move to give independent music fans a more curated shopping experience.

The New York retail store and Web site at http://www.othermusic.com/ have earned a reputation as destinations for music fans who are looking to buy obscure and experimental music offerings that are not always sold in "big-box" stores. The MP3 download offering will be up against majors like iTunes and Yahoo Music, but this competition  does not deter the multichannel retailer.

"For indie music shoppers and more independent music, there is not a real specialty store online," said Josh Madell, owner of Other Music, New York. "ITunes definitely has some great things, but you have to hunt for them. It's like going into Virgin, where you have to sift through a lot to find an underground artist."

Other Music opened its doors in New York 11 years ago in SoHo, across the street from the now-defunct Tower Records. It has always done business through its store and extensive back catalog offerings of CDs and LPs. The in-store staff is known for its insight into everything from '60s Brazilian psychadelia to '80s New York noise. 

This expert knowledge has led to strong brand loyalty. Other Music not only offers special knowledge but also high quality MP3s. While Apple's iTunes' MP3 files are compressed to 190 bits, Other Music's MP3s will be larger at 320 bits. This compression rate targets the audio enthusiast who is less concerned about space on a iPod Nano, than  enjoying a full-sound listening experience.

The MP3s will all be open files, without copyright protection. Since most of the labels that Other Music is working with are independent, this causes no infringement issues with the major labels. Mr. Madell said that the concern over copy-protected audio files is a moot point, as most music sales still come from CDs that contain open files that are easily copied.

Other Music shoppers tend to be fans of more experimental music genres and see the store as a source to learn about new music.  

Curating has been a key to attracting this kind of niche marketplace, and Other Music's weekly e-mail newsletter has brought the in-store shopping experience to an Internet audience.

The store sends out an update each week to the 30,000 customers in its database, which includes in-house reviews of new albums and event listings.

"I have found that people who are big fans of underground music want to shop in a place where they can be understood and can be in touch with a community," Mr. Madell said.  "Just because there is more information out there with the Internet does not mean that it's any easier to sort through."

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