August 21, 2007
MTV and Rhapsody: taking digital music a few steps back
MTV announced today that they're scrapping Urge and teaming up with an online music service you've probably never heard of called Rhapsody to offer digital music to its viewers. Membership plans under the new partnership haven't been announced yet, but of all the online music download services I've ever seen, Rhapsody's looks like the worst. The service is part of Real Networks, the people who brought you the worst media player of all time, RealPlayer.
Here's the offer: you pay $12.99 a month, and can listen to all the music you want on your computer. But no downloading or anything. If you want to download music, it costs $14.99 per month, and you can then download your music onto a Rhapsody-compatible MP3 player, which does not includes iPods.
And if you want to download a song onto your computer, it costs another 89 cents per track! After you've already paid 15 bucks a month just to put music on your cruddy-looking SansaRhapsody MP3 player, you have to pay again if you want to be able to burn a song onto a CD! You can also download your songs onto your cellphone, but only if you have a contract with Verizon.
And of course it goes without saying that even these purchased tracks come with DRM that limits copying to 5 computers (with the exception of Universal, who are offering their songs without restrictions starting today.)
What kind of deal is that? Considering that the other big news today in online music is that Wal-Mart is offering DRM-free downloads for a mere 94 cents each, MTV/Rhapsody isn't looking so tempting. A year ago Rhapsody had only 4% of the online music market share, so they've got a lot of work to do.
MTV is assuming that people are going to keep buying bigger and better combined phones and MP3 players. Wired bets that the next big iPhone-related announcement from Apple will be that iTunes tracks can be downloaded wirelessly with an iPhone, since that seems to be the main thing iTunes can't do yet.
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