EW Staff
November 05, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Attention, music wonks: There’s a new online record store that’s as picky as the snobby shop clerks of High Fidelity.

Sure, iTunes may have found success by appealing to music buyers of every stripe — a million-plus songs by everyone from Streisand to the Strokes — but Britsh MP3 portal Bleep is taking the opposite approach, cultivating a roster of revered indie labels like Domino (Franz Ferdinand, Pavement); One Little Indian (Björk); and Ghostly International (Matthew Dear). ”It’s like a boutique store you’re flattered to be carried by,” says Ghostly owner Sam Valenti IV, who also works with iTunes.

Bleep launched in January as a digital one-stop for London’s Warp Records, home to Autechre and Aphex Twin and arguably the most influential electronic label ever. By July, Bleep was accepting offers from outside parties, and now shifts as many as 45,000 songs a month — a fraction of iTunes’ 16 million per, but impressive for a start-up.

Bleep also boasts subtle touches like higher-quality sound (205Kbps to Apple’s 128Kbps) and files that are free of Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection. This means the ability to rip, burn, and mix at will, something the major services like iTunes and Napster are vehemently against.

As Kevin Arnold, founder of IODA — a San Francisco-based company that brokers deals between indie labels and music websites — puts it, ”It’s just cooler.”

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