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"We are especially excited about the availability of burns to CD for a mere 79 cents—we believe this is a great offer to consumers who are now realizing the power of online music services."
——Merrill Brown, RealNetworks

REAL RHAPSODIC

Sub Service Prepares for RealOne Debut, Drops Price of CD Burns
Today (5/28) marks the launch of RealOne RHAPSODY, a version of the well-regarded online music service developed by RealNetworks, which is in the process of acquiring RHAPSODY parent Listen.com.

The occasion is doubly auspicious, since RHAPSODY has used it to cross a price-point frontier, dropping the cost of CD burning for users of its service from 99 cents to 79 cents per track.

The well-regarded service’s operators believe their all-you-can-download subscription model, Windows orientation, catalog of 330,000+ licensed tracks from both majors and indies (over 200,000 of which can be burned to disc) and the cheaper burn fee pose a real challenge to that media-friendly 99-cent emporium, Apple’s iTunes Music Store.

The folks at Real and RHAPSODY believe the drop in price will motivate a surge in "burning activity" by current members and also drive a wave of new subscriptions. A special campaign earlier this year featuring 49-cent burning sparked a wave of new membership.

Real's version, like several other branded RHAPSODY offerings, will offer membership at $9.95 per month, with a 14-day free trial thrown in. In addition to being able to listen to thousands of tracks online, users can listen pre-programmed Internet radio, create their own stations and access music information and recommendations.

"We are thrilled to introduce RealOne RHAPSODY, which offers consumers what they want--a deep library for on-demand listening, a customizable radio service and extremely affordable burns for those songs they just can't live without," proclaimed SVP RealOne Services, RealNetworks Merrill Brown. "We are especially excited about the availability of burns to CD for a mere 79 cents—we believe this is a great offer to consumers who are now realizing the power of online music services."

"We are extremely pleased to join RealNetworks in introducing the newest RealOne service, RealOne RHAPSODY," exulted Listen.com CEO Sean Ryan. "RHAPSODY's unlimited listening model is already a hit with subscribers, who listen to more than 250 unique songs a month on average. Adding 79-cent CD burning will enable subscribers to easily buy and own copies of songs they like the most at the lowest price anywhere. I just wish I didn't have to shout the name of the service at the top of my lungs to indicate that it's spelled in all capital letters. Does anyone have a lozenge?"

By skipping the download option entirely in favor of streaming and CD burning, the service is reflective of a substantial consumer base that hasn't yet made the leap to portable digital players. For these users, being able to listen to unlimited tracks for a flat fee and then select certain ones for a la carte burning may be preferable to Apple's model, even without the PC-versus-Mac issue.

Pundits have repeatedly wondered if PC-oriented services can "compete with free," referring to file-swapping services such as Kazaa (which appears to have dropped its own sporadic capitalization) and Grokster. Interestingly, both of these infamous P2P providers have developed paying models recently, though not along lines preferred by content owners.

But as Apple’s success has shown, online services—if they’re convenient enough—can appeal to upper-demo music fans who have neither the time nor the patience to deal with the swapcos.

Distributors of their own branded versions of RHAPSODY include Gateway, Verizon Online, Speakeasy, Cablevision Systems Corporation’s Optimum Online and JamBase, among others.

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