The rush toward the legal digital dissemination of music is speeding up. Even as the record industry battles music-sharing software Napster, it has begun to embrace MP3.com’s on-demand service — two big labels (Warner Music Group and BMG Entertainment) recently made a deal to give the site access to their catalogs for pennies per song. Meanwhile, Tiger Electronics, Ltd., has targeted the allowances of the youngest segment of the audience for such acts as ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. Tiger’s new HitClips format, available Aug. 1, is based on a series of prerecorded chips containing digital samples (one minute, tops) of popular songs from the kiddie magnets. Mini-players for the less-than-one-square-inch chips ($3.99 to $4.99 per song) will range from the tiny, single-earbud HitClips Micro Player ($7.99) to the $14.99 alarm-clock version. Tiger has also partnered with Yahoo! to market a downloader that will let users plug their players straight into their computers to record up to two minutes of sounds.
”It’s all good,” says Ron Fair, a senior VP at RCA, Aguilera’s label. ”If you touch the nerve of the public with the Internet or other new media, you reach more fans.” And, oh yes, presumably drive up demand for full versions of the songs. Which is fine — until nonfans sink into that economy seat next to Timmy with his HitClips Rockin’ Micro Boombox. We’ll consider ourselves warned.