In fight for its life against competitors like Apple’s iTunes Music Store and Napster, RealNetworks Inc. on Tuesday took the wraps off its revamped Rhapsody music download service. Rhapsody now includes the ability to download 25 songs per month for free, as well as new services called Rhapsody Unlimited and Rhapsody To Go.
Rhapsody 25 is the basic service. It allows anyone in the U.S. who downloads Rhapsody’s Windows-based jukebox software to listen to 25 full songs for free each month from Rhapsody’s library. Users can purchase and download songs a la carte, and participate in other community and sharing functions like a “Send Playlist” feature. Music downloaded from the service is encoded in RealAudio 10 format with Advanced Audio Codec (AAC), at 192Kbps.
Rhapsody Unlimited is the “enhanced” version of RealNetworks’ music download service — a subscription-based service that costs US$9.99 per month. Users can listen to 100 pre-programmed Internet radio stations, access more than 50,000 “artist-based” radio stations and view more than 1,500 music videos online. Users can download an unlimited number of songs to their computer’s hard drive, which remain accessible for as long as they remain subscribers. If they end their subscription, however, their access to the music ends as well. Users who want to purchase music for download get a 10 percent break on singles and albums.
Rhapsody To Go is RealNetworks’ answer to Napster’s Napster To Go service — the $14.99 per month subscription service lets users download an unlimited amount of music to compatible portable music players. Like Rhapsody Unlimited, if your subscription ends, so ends your access to the music you’ve downloaded.
Rhapsody To Go is only compatible with specific portable music players that support the Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology employed by the service — RealNetworks currently recommends the iriver H10 and Creative Zen Micro, and is also offering a $100 mail-in rebate on the H10 for consumers who sign up for one year of the Rhapsody To Go service. Apple’s iPod is not on the list of supported devices.