EarthLink Plays the Music

Dial-up and high-speed ISP EarthLink hopped on the digital music train Monday,
teaming up with FullAudio and MusicMatch to launch a
fee-based Digital Music Center for its subscribers.

The launch of EarthLink’s Music
Center
is seen as a boost for the fragile
fee-based music download business, which has been slow
to gain public adoption, especially at the service
provider level.

Outside of America Online , which has
a major stake in the MusicNet premium music service,
not many ISPs have rushed to offer paid digital
downloads for its subscribers. For the most part, paid
digital music offerings have been limited to those
offered by the music labels in partnership deals with
companies like Microsoft and
RealNetworks and the move by
EarthLink to launch a standalone service is likely to
provide a rare bit of good news for the struggling
sector.

The Atlanta-based EarthLink is styling its Digital
Music Center as a “label-neutral distribution channel”
offering a secure and higher quality option to
consumers using the popular, yet questionable
file-swapping sites.

The EarthLink service, including the pricing options,
closely resembles AOL’s standalone MusicNet service.
The EarthLink offerings, which is powered by
FullAudio, would allow up to 50 downloads for $9.95
monthly or up to 100 tracks each month for $17.95.
The company said subscribers would have unlimited
access to the downloaded music.

FullAudio has distribution deals with four of the five
major recording labels (BMG, EMI Recorded Music,
Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group.

EarthLink’s Music Center also comes with a branded
Windows Media Player (WMP), which has been customized
to allow users to sync their account to three PCs and
the option of playing the downloaded music on or
offline. The EarthLink player will also shuttle users
to purchase music via embedded links to Amazon.com
.

Like AOL, EarthLink’s service will not allow for the
burning of downloads to CDs.

The Digital Music Center also includes the EarthLink
Jukebox
, built by MusicMatch to offer a co-branded
streaming alternative to downloads. EarthLink’s
offering would piggyback on MusicMatch’s existing
media player and would four service levels: free
Jukebox Basic, Jukebox Plus for a $19.99 one-time fee,
free online Radio, and the subscription-based Radio MX
personalized music service for $4.95 per month.

EarthLink said the Jukebox “Basic” would be a free
version of the co-branded player that allows
subscribers to play, rip (record), rename and organize
all of their music, including MP3s and audio CDs; The
Jukebox “Plus” offers CD burning capabilities and the
ability to rip tracks from cassettes and vinyl into
MP3s, and automatically add track and
album information to an entire library with Super
Tagging.

EarthLink Radio would be included as a free version of
MusicMatch’s streaming radio with all the bells and
whistles like customizing radio stations based on
music preferences. For $4.95 per month, EarthLink
would also sell Radio MX, an ad-free streaming music
service that lets paying users to create personalized
play lists based on one or more of their favorite
artists.

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