LONDON (Reuters) - A leading technology company is set to launch a new digital music file format which will embed additional content for fans including lyrics, news updates and images in what could be a successor to the ubiquitous MP3 file.
The music industry has been hammered by piracy in the last decade and is looking to develop new offerings to entice consumers to buy their music from legitimate sites, instead of taking it from illegal outlets.
The new proposal, which is called MusicDNA and has the backing of the original MP3 digital music file inventor, would allow fans to download an MP3 file on to their computer, which would carry with it additional content.
Music labels, bands or retailers could then also send updates to the music file every time they have something new to announce such as the dates of future tours, new interviews or updates to social network pages.
The user would receive as little or as much of the information as they want, every time they are online. However anyone who downloads the music file illegally would receive only a static file which would not receive any updates.
BACH Technology, the group behind the MusicDNA file, says it is looking to partner with retailers, music labels, rights holders and technology companies and is happy to provide its technology for others who could use it under their own brand.
BACH is based in Norway, Germany and China and has Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology as a partner.
"We are getting very good feedback and the fact we are looking to include everyone in this, and not competing against them, helps," Chief Executive Stefan Kohlmeyer told Reuters.
The music files can play on any MP3 player including Apple's iPod. The music player, or online music library, can also be adapted to suit the user and could, for example, be integrated into existing social networks.
Kohlmeyer said the service would hark back to the time when music fans enjoyed looking at the lyrics and artwork on an album almost as much as they enjoyed listening to the music itself.
"What we are bringing back to the end user is the entire emotional experience of music," he said. "We think it got lost in the transition to the digital era.
"We think a beautiful piece of audio has been reduced to a number code. We want to enrich it again."
BACH, which counts the inventor of the MP3 and a former chief executive of Sony Music Entertainment among its investors, is also hoping that software developers will create new applications and content for the MusicDNA player.
A beta version of the file will be available in the Spring and a full commercial rollout is expected by the summer. It also hopes to roll out a mobile version of the music player.
BACH has already signed up a host of partners across the industry and is in talks with the major record labels.
Rob Wells, the senior vice president of digital at Universal Music Group International, told Reuters he thought the new offering was exciting and said Universal could quite possibly work with the company, but said they still needed further commercial conversations.
"I think the music industry has got a great opportunity to open up completely new revenue streams," Kohlmeyer said. "They haven't contemplated in the past all the aspects of rich media."
Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Rupert Winchester