RealTime IT News

Listen.com Halves CD Burning Cost

In an effort to jumpstart the sales of its online subscription service in a competitive, but soft-demand market, Listen.com Thursday teamed with Terra Lycos to let customers use its Rhapsody digital music service to burn as many songs as they want for 49 cents per track.

The promotion is available to Rhapsody subscribers who sign up ($10 per month) through the Waltham, Mass.-based Lycos Music and Listen.com Web sites between today and March 31, 2003. This offer, which effectively cuts the routine 99 cent-per-track fee in half, also extends to existing subscribers.

The promotion also reflects an irony in the the online music trade. While players such as Listen.com, pressplay and MusicNet, who honor myriad licensing contracts with the record labels that own the music, previously fought the idea of selling tunes individually without restrictions, the idea seems to be gradually gaining traction as an attractive lure to prospective customers.

For example, while the tracks Listen.com is offering are not illegal unrestricted downloads as, say, the way the Recording Industry Association of America paints file-sharing service Kazaa, they can be turned into MP3 files. Once the songs are converted, users can burn CDs with them en masse or transfer them to computers or portable music players.

But Lycos didn't stop there in its endeavor to lure new customers from rivals such as Pressplay and MusicNet -- and to compete with free file-sharing entities such as Kazaa. Lycos Music and Listen.com are also offering a week of free access beginning today and extending through February 21. Listen.com is posing this as a "test-drive," where consumers can wrap their ears around Rhapsody's digital music library without submitting credit card information.

The San Francisco-based concern also said customers who subscribe during this week will get 50 percent off their first three months of service.

Dave Williams, vice president of product management, Listen.com, claimed that more than 75 percent of those who try Rhapsody get hooked into subscribing. He said Lycos Music is a logical place for the promotion because of its broad range -- Barcelona-based Terra Lycos boasts a presence in 42 countries, reaching 118 million users per month.

The promotion includes the service's entire library of content, including music from more than 20,000 albums owned by BMG, EMI Recorded Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and more than 30 independent labels.

Rhapsody remains the only online music subscription service to let customers burn individual tracks so customers can customize their CD collections.

At pressplay customers must buy a membership plan to get a limited number of burns, or buy extra burns in packs of five, 10, or 20, averaging about $1 a song. But MusicNet doesn't allow memebers to burn music at all. However, the newest iteration of MusicNet, to be rolled out next month, will allow users to burn one CD of up to 10 songs each month, for $17.95 a month.

But the legitimate subscription services are still fighting an uphill battle. Industry studies estimate the number of online music subscribers totals 600,000, while free-for-alls like Kazaa boast some 11 million users.