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Plug.In '98






Jupiter Communications' Plug.In '98 was a contentious, encouraging and altogether eye-opening event this year. Aside from a breakthrough announcement by regarding the option to use collaborative filtering to create a custom channel for music programming from their 100,000-song catalog, there were a number of competitors who made themselves known in various areas important to the marketing of music online.

In the area of digital watermarking of music files (included in the Liquid Music(tm) System announced last year when it was used for the first music purchase/download system launched by Music Boulvard, called "e-mod" for "electronic music on demand"), Aris Technologies introduced its MusiCode(tm) audio watermarking system, demonstrating real-time recognition in the exhibit area using a 2" speaker and miniature microphone in analog mode. In addition, Cognicity presented their own "data embedding" technology called AudioKey(tm). These watermarking systems come with free readers, and can be used unbundled from a more comprehensive system such as the Liquid Music(tm) System.

Audiosoft was back in high profile after its initial presence two years ago, with their system competing with Liquid Music(tm), and InterTrust Technologies Corporation chimed in with their Commerce 1.0 Digital Commerce Solution addressing security with their DigiBox data container. Meanwhile, RealNetworks announced the release of RealSystem G2 for streaming media as "the first open, extensible standards-based streaming media system" stepping beyond their initial proprietary efforts with RealAudio and RealVideo. (An independent announcement several days prior to Plug.In came from PlayMedia Systems regarding their Maestro system for online downloading of music.)

New (or newly prominent) players in the music online distribution market including AT&T's a2b music with an email attachment system for clip promotion, and Total E announcing a new online music store backed by Columbia House, including "eDNA, an affinity engine that will provide the customer with targeted product recommendations" though not digital downloads at the present time.

Add a few more odds and ends, such as the MY-CD service for manufacturing personalized compilation CDs according to consumer specifications collected online -- a turnkey "burn-on-demand" service, and you have an encouraging mix of new developments in online music that supports an optimistic view of the future.

- Dan Krimm, 7/98