The high-profile nonprofit organisation, which donates a chunk of profits to combat AIDS in Africa, will be launching a subscription music service this autumn.
The as-yet-unnamed service will launch in September, according to The New York Times, and cost $5 (£2.50) per month, although there's no news on availability outside the US.
It's structured like a newsletter: each week, members will get an email with two MP3s -- one an exclusive song from a well-known act and the other from an emerging artist -- as well as a 'Crackerjack surprise' (say, a video) and an update on how (RED)'s charity money is being put to use. The songs are DRM-free, so you won't have to own a (RED) iPod in order to listen to them.
Half the proceeds will go to Africa, and the other half to the artists and record labels involved. (RED) has had roots in the music industry from the start; U2 frontman Bono is a co-founder of the initiative.
It's tough to gauge the likely success of such a project. It's being spearheaded by (RED)'s president of content, Don MacKinnon, who previously handled music distribution at Starbucks -- another programme that focused on blending a selection of well-known music with emerging artists. The ubiquitous coffee chain's in-store music project hasn't been a tremendous success, as is evidenced by its decision to scale back its in-store CD sales.
(RED)'s music, however, is a digital initiative, which gives it a leg up on anything involving hard copies. (When was the last time you bought a CD?) But with so much focus on ad-supported free music, you wonder who's going to fork over $5 per month for music that they don't get to choose themselves.
Still, it is for a good cause. -Caroline McCarthy