Real News


Today RealNetworks Inc., the company behind the Rhapsody music service, unveiled its new “Music Without Limits” initiative and here’s how what it looks like:

[The initiative] …includes the launch of a new DRM-free Rhapsody MP3 store and 100,000 album giveaway, full-song streaming and MP3 sales partnerships with iLike, MTV (NYSE: VIA) and Yahoo (NASD: YHOO), and an unlimited mobile subscription service deal with Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ). The Rhapsody MP3 catalog will include more than 5 million songs from all four major labels, available both for purchase and as full-song samples (25 songs per person per month) — a feature not available at Apple’s iTunes Store.

The partnership with iLike will see Rhapsody power full-song payback across and the company’s applications on Facebook, MySpace and other social media sites.

The unlimited mobile music subscription service through Verizon’s V CAST music service will cost $14.99 per month, and include both mobile and PC versions of each song. [DigitalMediaWire]

Here’s what Saul Hansell of the NY Times Bits Blog had to say about Rhapsody’s barrage of announcements:

On the bright side. Rhapsody’s deal to offer its service in conjunction with Verizon Wireless, which was announced last year, is finally available. But the actual specifications make it far from a game changer. First, the price is $14.99 a month, no break from the price Rhapsody has been charging for its regular subscription that works with a portable music player. Many people in the industry think that if subscription music is going to take off, the price must fall by half to two-thirds.

That $15 a month, moreover, doesn’t buy an experience that takes advantage of Verizon’s cellphone network. To listen to music, you need to download files onto your computer and then transfer then by way of a cable onto a music-capable Verizon phone. Even though you are paying for unlimited music, there is no way to get that music over Verizon’s data network.

I’m not so sure how much traction Rhapsody can get as a download store. Its software has a nice recommendation engine, and it has decent promotion through its deals with MTV and Yahoo. But I don’t see the big draw. Rhapsody, moreover, is selling all tracks at 99 cents, compared with Amazon, which discounts some to 89 cents. [NYTimes Bits Blog]

The market on the other hand, seemed to like today’s announcements and sent Real Networks (RNWK) shares up 4.4 percent.

As a post script, (and this was something Saul Hansell failed to mention), my boy Drake informs me that DRM free mp3s have been available via the Rhapsody client (but not via the web) for over a year.