Record label launches rival downloader to iTunes

Music industry and Apple go head to head online

A rival to iTunes has been launched by the music industry.

A new download service – Gbox – is being supported by Sony BMG, Universal and other big record labels, and is being seen as a challenge to Apple‘s download service.

Customers in the States can buy tunes through the service for the same price as iTunes at 50 pence (99 cents) a track.

Music fans can download tracks direct from Gbox or Amazon. However, only US customers can currently make use of the service.

The service will also get special advertising from Google, with plugs appearing each time a user searches for a particular act.

The new service is offering dowloads by acts such as Prince, 50 Cent and Johnny Cash without the customary copy protection technology known as DRM– digital rights management.

Most major recording studios insist music sellers use DRM technology on digital music formats to curb online piracy.

The new service also plans to use social networking sites like Myspace to sell its music.

Universal Music Group chief executive Doug Morris told BBC News: “We’re committed to exploring new ways to expand the availability of our artists’ music online while offering consumers the most choice in how and where they purchase and enjoy our music.”