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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Music labels hear call for affordable tunes

By Jefferson Graham
USA Today

 •  Comparing legitimate music services

A monthly subscription, plus per-song charges, is often necessary to burn music to CDs at pay-for-play music sites.

Rhapsody (www.listen.com) $9.95 monthly subscription, 99 cents per song

Pressplay (www.pressplay.com) $17.95 monthly subscription, 10 songs included; $6 for additional five

MusicNet (www.musicnet.com) $9.95 monthly subscription, burning not available

— Source: USA Today research

Nearly a year ago, the major record labels unveiled their alternatives to free music downloading, but these subscription services fell flat because of too many restrictions, including the inability to transfer tunes to CDs or portable players.

Listen.com's Rhapsody is an independent Internet service and the only one to have music from all five major record companies. It will start allowing users to record CDs from a library of about 100,000 songs from labels Universal and Warner Music, including new albums from Eminem, Nelly, Bon Jovi and India.Arie.

Coming on the heels of recent changes allowing CD recording on Pressplay, an online music service owned by Sony and Universal, the announcement is evidence that the record industry, beset by slipping sales and mass piracy, is coming to terms with the demands of its audience for accessible and reasonably priced digital music.

The third major service, MusicNet, owned by AOL, Warner, BMG, EMI and Real Networks, is expected to announce deals with all five major music companies for CD recording soon.

With sales down 7 percent this year, "The financial pressure the labels are feeling from peer-to-peer file-sharing programs has had a big impact on their thinking," said Listen.com's Dave Williams. "A few years ago, their secret wish was for the Internet to go away. Now there's enthusiasm about the possibilities."

Warner Music's Paul Vidich predicts that online resellers will soon offer a la carte recordable downloads without requiring membership. "We need to take the consumer behavior that exists now and make it legitimate," he said.

GartnerG2 analyst P.J. McNealy calls the record industry's loosening of its restrictions "a step in the right direction," but still not enough: "In a year, we've gone from dreadful to somewhat palatable," McNealy said.