UK music service Wippit will launch a new Web-based platform-agnostic online digital music service later this month.

Company founder Paul Myers told Macworld: "We are looking to introduce an a la carte service in March offering songs in Windows Audio and standard MP3 formats using the Web."
When questioned, Myers agreed that because this will be an HTML-based service, Mac users will also be able to select and purchase songs form the company's current 60,000 track catalogue.

Wippit already offers a rights-protected peer-to-peer file sharing service. Its users pay a monthly subscription to access songs carried by the company, though the software and songs are currently Windows-only.

Myers, whose background includes success in both the music and Internet fields, said good things about Apple's iTunes Music Store: "Apple's service was immense news for the industry. The good news coming out of the iTunes project has animated many of those who were cynical about shifting music online. Now the music business execs can see the money in the business. Apple has been a positive influence in the market," he said.

The Register reports Wippit's forthcoming service as an "Easy Jet for music downloads," pointing to the company's decision to furnish songs at low cost.

Myers grinned at the analogy; admitting his company will charge "under 60p per song", he said: "99 cents per song is too expensive. We find most customers want to pay less."

Industry watchers believe Apple (and others) are locked into a payment system with the labels under which they must pay them 65 cents for every song they sell. Myers didn't confirm this, but did explain: "Our business model is different, we operate a 50:50 revenue split with the labels."

"Some labels want to charge more for their music, others will offer a high value price. It's their music and decision how much they sell it for. It is helpful to us in that having been around a while we have been paying the labels regularly for a few years, it helps us build trust with them."

Myers said that the majority of the 60,000 available tracks come from 200 independent labels, but did include music from major league artists, such as The Stereophonics and Liberty X. He observed: "The UK market's a little different, in that 25-30 per cent of the UK market's sales are independent acts."

Myers has seen the music business move toward the digital distribution market, but, "it's still too slow, and the businesses that are slow to get music online legally are effectively encouraging piracy. And one major music group won't do any deals at all, even experimental ones."

Wippit will offer two payment systems to buy tracks online, Myers confirmed. Music lovers will be able to pay by credit card and "another way". While he declined to be specific, Myers claimed that Wippit's alternative payment method would: "Open the service up for the completely ignored under-18's market, who don't have credit cards and cannot buy music online legally."

He added that the latter point exacerbates illegal file sharing among teenagers. "The music business complains about this, but the fact remains – teenagers get music online illegally because they are not able to pay for it legally. We hope to make it possible for them to access legitimate services."