MSN Launches Preview Release of Music Download Service

REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 1, 2004 — MSN today launched a preview release of its MSN
® Music service in the United States, providing music fans with an easy, comprehensive service for discovering and downloading legal, digital music. MSN Music offers simple sign-up, no-hassle purchasing and superior sound quality, either through a Web browser or the new Windows Media®
Player 10. The new service delivers a vast selection of music with more than 1 million tracks licensed, from new releases to rare classical compositions, from major labels including EMI Music North America, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group as well as more than 3,000 independent labels.

Available in the new Windows Media Player 10* or at http://beta.music.msn.com , MSN Music allows people to download music for 99 cents per song and listen to music on their choice of more than 70 Windows Media-compatible devices. MSN Music also provides rich discovery tools to connect people with the music they love, including simple, comprehensive music search tools, online streaming capabilities via MSN Radio, and features for easily sharing recommendations with friends.

“Our goal with the MSN Music service is to finally bring digital music to the masses by offering what we believe is the largest and highest quality catalog of legal music on the Internet, available on the broadest selection of portable devices,” said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president for MSN. “From listening to a favorite band and discovering new artists to downloading individual songs or albums, MSN Music offers the easiest way for people to access the music they love, any time, anywhere.”

In addition to the new U.S.-only service, MSN is also working with industry partners in several international markets to offer music services that meet the specific needs and desires of the consumers in those regions. Through these relationships, an MSN Music offering, built on industry partner technology, is currently available in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Brazil, Korea and Australia.

Sign Up, Download, Listen — It’s All So Easy

MSN Music offers the easiest way for people to download and enjoy music, while providing a rich range of choices for people to experience their favorite song.

Special features include the following:

  • Easy sign-up and navigation. MSN Music offers a simple interface that is easy to learn, allowing anybody to find old favorites or new hits without requiring a complicated setup before they start browsing the service. Once users choose a song they like, signing up and purchasing it from MSN Music takes only a few simple steps.

  • Accessible via the Web or Windows Media Player 10. Music fans can browse, sample and download songs via Microsoft®
    Internet Explorer or as a feature of the new Windows Media Player 10, with direct access to the music library and playback experience, as well as automatic transfer to portable devices.

  • No-hassle download and purchase. Music lovers can choose to download songs or albums to their music library in as little as one step, without lengthy checkout procedures or the need to re-enter credit card numbers.

  • Consistent, generous rules for use. Using the new Windows Media®
    Player 10, downloaded songs can be played on five computers. A playlist of songs can be burned to CD up to seven times, and there are unlimited rights for transferring songs to portable audio devices.

  • Choice of devices to match any lifestyle. Music fans can listen to their MSN Music downloads on a choice of more than 70 devices, ranging from Flash memory devices for people on the go to hard-drive devices with more storage or new portable media centers, offering unprecedented choice in functionality and price. In addition, MSN Music downloads will play on Media Center PCs, providing the ultimate living room experience.

Choose From a Broad Selection of Superior-Quality Music

MSN is working closely with the music industry to build a top-quality music service that appeals to music fans while creating a rich online marketplace for musicians. MSN Music offers a great selection of music:

  • Vast catalog of legal downloads. MSN has licensed more than 1 million tracks from more than 3,000 major and independent music labels. More than 500,000 tracks are available in today’s preview release of MSN Music, and new tracks will be added every week. The library spans a wide range of genres including classical, country, hip-hop, rock, jazz and alternative.

  • Catalog offerings from major artists, including album-only selections. In addition to individual songs, MSN Music also offers a wide range of albums from artists such as Madonna and Metallica, available today, and will offer albums from the Dave Matthews Band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead in the next couple weeks. These artists’ music is available via download only on MSN Music or other services that allow album-only downloads.

  • Exclusive content. MSN Music will also offer on an ongoing basis a compelling selection of exclusive tracks from popular performers, providing music fans with a virtual backstage pass to their favorite artists. For example, today users can find four live performances from Kayne West available only on MSN.

  • Superior sound quality. MSN Music digitally encodes tracks using Windows Media variable bit-rate encoding, with an average bit rate of 160 Kbps and a peak bit rate of 256 Kbps, offering the industry’s highest fidelity audio in a compact file size.

  • CD purchase option. When a song or album is unavailable online or when users would rather buy a packaged CD, MSN Music provides easy links to online retailers such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

  • More than an online service. Music fans can do much more than download music on MSN Music; for example, they can check out artist biographies, photos and music news, or search for concert tickets.

Rich Discovery Tools Make Finding and Sharing Music a Breeze

MSN Music goes beyond basic downloading services to offer rich and powerful tools that help people find the music they love, discover new favorites, and share music with others.

Special features include the following:

  • Powerful, simple search. MSN Music provides a powerful and easy-to-use music search engine that immediately connects people to music downloads, album information, artist pages and more. Fans can search by artist, genre, album or song. The intelligent MSN Music search engine will correct spelling errors as well.

  • Integrated streaming radio for discovering new music. MSN Music offers free streaming across 50 genre-based radio stations through MSN Radio, allowing users to discover and download new music while enjoying the radio. When fans hear a song they like, they’re only one click away from buying the download.

  • Local radio stations from every state. Fans also can hear music from hundreds of local radio stations (e.g., 100.3 in New York City) through MSN Radio, which provides the same music mix as the stations but with less repetition, fewer ads and no DJ talk.

  • Artist “fan favorites” stations. Subscribers to MSN Radio Plus can access thousands of “fan favorites” stations, which gives them a powerful discovery tool to hear new music based on their existing preferences.

  • Easy sharing of music information and recommendations. Fans can reach out to others through user-submitted album reviews, community ratings and “listeners also liked” recommendations. And the simple Email This Page feature allows people to share a personal favorite with friends. In the future, MSN Music will also work with MSN Messenger, the world’s leading free instant messaging service, for even greater social networking options.

MSN Music Is Core to Seamless Media Vision

Today’s launch also marks ongoing progress for Microsoft Corp.’s digital entertainment vision to make it easier for consumers to find and enjoy digital content such as music and videos. With the preview of the MSN Music service, the availability of Windows Media Player 10 and Windows Mobile (TM) software for Portable Media Centers, Microsoft is delivering a comprehensive digital media scenario for consumers that takes the excitement of music and other digital content and makes it simple for people to find, enjoy and afford it.

About MSN

MSN attracts more than 350 million unique users worldwide per month. With localized versions available globally in 39 markets and 20 languages, MSN is a world leader in delivering Web services to consumers and online advertising opportunities to businesses worldwide. The most useful and innovative online service today, MSN brings consumers everything they need from the Web to make the most of their time online. MSN is located on the Web at http://www.msn.com . MSN worldwide sites are located at http://www.msn.com/worldwide.ashx .

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

* Windows Media Player 10 will be available Sept. 2, 2004.

Microsoft, MSN, Windows Media and Windows Mobile are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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