In some circles, long-standing music retailing giant Tower Records is known for two things: putting mom-and-pop record shops out of business with their Wal-Mart-like market presence and, like everybody else, struggling to survive hip-deep in the digital music revolution.
Despite being one of the first major retailers to go online, Tower Records is a latecomer to the idea of digital music sales, today finally taking the wraps of Tower Records Digital, a legal online digital music service selling tracks from top-name artists for $0.99 apiece and whole albums for $9.99. Tower Records is striving to set itself apart from the 128 Kbps competition by offering its tunes at a higher-quality 192 Kbps, which may appeal to audophiles and other music fans whose teeth have been set on edge with the quality levels of typical digital music offerings. (Note that Tower’s online help says players should be able to handle 320 Kbps files.) However, iTunes and iPod users aren’t welcome at Tower: tracks are available only in Microsoft’s WMA format, which isn’t compatible with Apple’s market-dominating portable music player.
Tower Records Digital is being powered by Canada’s Puretracks (we’d tell you more but those friendly Canadians don’t even let Mac users look at their site), and is somewhat smaller than other major online music retailers, initially offering about 1.2 million tracks, but Tower is already claiming to offer more depth and variety across genres than other major services, and aims to deepen its selection quickly, using its relationships with labels and distributors as well as its knowledge of the tastes of sophisticated music fans.
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