Pay to download music, it's coming this holiday season ;)

Amid the hoopla of the holiday season, the world's big record labels are finally rolling out their online subscription services, which were originally promised for the late summer or early fall this year.

In coming weeks, music fans -- who have for years been pulling everything from Radiohead to Madonna off the Web for free from services like Napster, FastTrack (KaZaA/Morpheus) and Gnutella-- will be introduced to a new breed of money-for-music services like PressPlay and MusicNet, which have been developed by the major record companies. (Ah, competition, at last, for the "download as much as you want for FREE services", we will now have the choice of FREE or PAY.... Which will YOU choose... Woot!!! Ed.!)

The subscription services, likely to cost anywhere from $10 to $20 per month, are nevertheless being rolled out in early December.

  • MusicNet -- (via RealNetworks' RealOne service) is owned by media firm RealNetworks, AOL Time Warner Music, EMI Group and Bertelsmann BMG
  • Pressplay -- owned by Vivendi Universal Music and Sony Music.
With free services likely to hinder the spread of these fee-based services for a few years, Web research firm Jupiter Media Metrix projects the digital music market to hit $1.6 billion by 2006, with $1 billion coming from subscriptions.

"We don't even think there will be a lot of action for these services by Christmas of next year," said Aram Sinnreich, analyst with Jupiter Media Metrix.

To succeed, the services will need to offer good file quality, a big selection of music, artist information, art and portability; with some analysts saying that users will pay if they can burn songs onto portable devices.

"Its extremely unlikely that any implementation of MusicNet or Pressplay will allow for portability at launch, although its necessary to succeed over the long-term," Sinnreich said, who expects an initial surge of interest but then a drop-off as users see various limitations in the services.

News source: Reuters

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