Speaking of download services: War Child Music

I’ve said a few times before that to be successful, new download sites would have to stop stocking the same old titles at the same price and find ways to differentiate their offerings, or risk becoming mere commodity retailers. This appears to be the approach that War Child Music is taking, and how.

The newly opened, fully functional store charges more than other download services (99p a track, which is roughly $1.75 in US currency today), and their offerings are extremely limited (starting with 25 tracks, they’ll only add five or six new tracks a month) but their stuff is exclusive, there are extensive liner notes online, and for £3.50 a month (about $6.21 today) you get buffet-style downloads. And the best part is all the proceeds go to charities to help children who have been affected by war.

Now that’s differentiation and positioning.

The music’s pretty good too—an exclusive Radiohead live remix, a Tom Waits track from his new album, Keane covering “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” the 1995 Help relief album, and some other goodies. Plus they offer the tracks in both Windows Media and AAC, proving that you can please both the Microsoft camp and the iPod users.

Criticisms? Site navigation is poor, with new windows opening at random and little cross linking. Plus the tags seem to be missing from the AAC files—which is where you’re grateful for those extensive online liner notes. But I expect these wrinkles will be worked out in time.