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News Launches Music Store; Quasi Tap Jicks Bassist, Tour

Today, in a landmark digital music development, Seattle-based online retailer launched a public beta version of its music store, rolling out with the largest selection of MP3 downloads sans Digital Rights Management (DRM) on the web. The new site, which was initially detailed this past spring, offers a la carte MP3 downloads encoded with a higher quality (256 kilobits) than industry stalwart iTunes, and features over 2 million songs from more than 180,000 artists and over 20,000 labels, including anti-DRM supporter EMI Music and Universal Music Group. Also, in comparison to iTunes, offers chiefly lower prices; songs range from 89 cents to 99 cents, with more half the 2 million songs priced at 89 cents. The top 100 best-selling songs run 89 cents, while most albums run $5.99 to $9.99. The top 100 best-selling albums are $8.99 or less, unless marked otherwise.

“This new digital music service has already been through an extensive private beta, and today we’re excited to offer it to our customers as a fully functional public beta,” said Bill Carr, Vice President for Digital Music. “We look forward to receiving feedback from our customers and using their input to refine the service.”

With Amazon’s entry into the digital music realm, the DRM debate thrives on as iTunes, as well as many big labels, struggle to build universal business plans around the imminent abolishment of the copyright protection software, which, if not embedded in an MP3 song, allows the user to listen via any hardware device — PCs, Macs, iPods, Zunes, Zens, iPhones, RAZRs, and BlackBerrys.

Quasi Taps Jicks Bassist, Tour

Now that frontwoman Corin Tucker, bassist Carrie Brownstein, and drummer Janet Weiss have finally descended the Sleater-Kinney off-ramp indefinitely, Weiss has a little time to dedicate to her other musical project with ex-hubby Sam Coomes: Quasi. But now, the duo has added a third ingredient to the mix, bassist Joanna Bolme, whom Weiss pounded out rhythms alongside in Stephen Malkmus’ band the Jicks, to beef Quasi’s sound on the band’s forthcoming tour. The nine-date outing, set to kick off in Vancouver, BC, will see Quasi open for Touch and Go label mate Ted Leo and the Pharmacists in cities down the West Coast, including Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Along the way Quasi will jump ship for a handful of solo performances, one of which will cap the newfound trio’s jaunt in Portland Nov. 15.

Quasi tour dates:

10/22, Vancouver, BC (Richard’s on Richards) *
10/23, Seattle, WA (Neumo’s) *
10/25, San Francisco, CA (Great American Music Hall) *
10/26, San Francisco, CA (Great American Music Hall) *
10/27, Claremont, CA (Sontag Greek Theater/Pomona College)
10/28, Costa Mesa, CA (Detroit Bar)
10/29, San Diego, CA (Casbah)
10/30, Los Angeles, CA (El Rey Theatre) *
11/15, Portland, OR (Dante’s)

VHS or Beta, Moving Units Team for Tour

In continual support of their latest LP, Bring on the Comets, dance rockers VHS or Beta will join with the Moving Units, building hype for their own release, Hexes for Exes, due Oct. 9 via Metropolis, for a 14-date co-headlining fall tour this November. Approaching the end of the band’s current outing, VHS or Beta will return to the road alongside Moving Units Nov. 12 in Washington, DC. From there, the two bands will gig throughout the Eastern Seaboard, hitting Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, among others. Next, the tour will skip west, rolling into cities like Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, BC.

VHS or Beta/Moving Units tour dates:

11/12, Washington, DC (Black Cat)
11/13, Baltimore, MD (Ottobar)
11/15, Philadelphia, PA (First Unitarian Church)
11/16, New York, NY (Blender Theater @ Gramercy)
11/17, Atlantic City, NJ (House of Blues Harlem Club)
11/19, Boston, MA (Paradise Rock Club)
11/20, Montreal, QC (Club Soda)
11/21, Toronto, ON (Lee’s Palace)
11/23, Chicago, IL (Abbey)
11/24, Minneapolis, MN (7th Street Entry)
11/27, Seattle, WA (Chop Suey)
11/28, Vancouver, BC (Richard’s on Richards)
11/29, Portland, OR (Doug Fir Lounge)
11/30, Sacramento, CA (Harlow’s)