• United States

AOL offers music downloads through MusicNet

Feb 26, 20032 mins
Enterprise Applications

AOL Wednesday launched MusicNet on AOL, an important test for subscription-based online music services pushed by the recording industry as the answer to renegade file-swapping services such as Kazaa and Morpheus.

Monthly subscribers to the service offered on the Web site of the U.S.’ largest ISP will get access to over 250,000 songs from a wide selection of artists from all major record labels and independents. The amount of music users can listen to depends on the subscription type. Limited burning of songs to CDs is only possible under the most expensive plan, AOL said in a statement.

The first 30 days of “standard” service, which includes unlimited streaming music and downloads, is free for every new subscriber and costs $8.95 a month after that. A $17.95 premium plan adds the ability to burn 10 songs to a CD per month. A $3.95 a month basic plan only includes 20 streams and 20 downloads, AOL said.

The online music service is available to all AOL customers and billing goes through AOL members’ existing accounts. A fourth, $13.95 a month plan that allows five songs to be recorded on a CD will be offered soon and “a la carte” burns, whereby a user can pay per song he wants to put on a CD, will be offered later this year, AOL said.

MusicNet is the online music service backed by Bertelsmann AG, AOL Time Warner, EMI Group PLC and RealNetworks. It competes with Pressplay, formed by Vivendi Universal SA and Sony and offered through Yahoo’s Web site and Microsoft’s MSN, as well as other sites.

MusicNet has been available for some time through RealNetworks’ software, but the subscription count has disappointed, indicating that users find the prices too high and the restrictions too restrictive.

The biggest competition for both Musicnet and Pressplay are the popular peer-to-peer file-swapping services. These free, advertising supported, services offer unlimited downloading of a vast collection of music, video and software, shared by other users. Millions of users are online at any given time, sharing and downloading files, including files containing copyright material.

The entertainment industry compares sharing and downloading of copyright-protected material to stealing and has been battling file-sharing services in court for years now, with some success.

Both MusicNet and Pressplay promote their offerings as superior to peer-to-peer services. Songs download faster, are always complete and of CD quality and are guaranteed free of computer viruses, the organizations say.