Another day, another DRM-free music store
Rhapsody, the joint venture by Real Networks and Viacom’s MTV Networks, is the latest digital music service to launch a DRM-free music download store. Although the company isn’t ditching Digital Rights Management software altogether – its music subscription service still relies heavily on copy-protection technology – the new Rhapsody MP3 Store is selling DRM-free MP3s priced at .99c per track or $9.99 for the complete album, which is pretty much inline with the rest of the industry.
Rhapsody MP3 Store will face stiff competition from a host of similar services, not least Apple’s iTunes and Amazon’s own MP3 store. Along with other DRM-free competitors to iTunes, the store’s website is extremely keen to highlight that tracks are compatible with Apple’s iPod music players. “Fill your iPod or any other music player with the tunes you want”, reads the site’s About page.
Rhapsody Vice President Neil Smith told Reuters: “We’re no longer competing with the iPod, we’re embracing it.”
Rhapsody also does a good job of explaining the broader benefits of a DRM-free service.
… when you buy a song or album from Rhapsody you can do whatever you want with it. Put it on your iPod or any other MP3 player, play it on as many computers as you want, or burn it to a CD as many times as you want.
Also see: Digital music: 2007 year in review – for full analysis of how and why the music industry is ditching DRM
The service is also attempting to stage a comeback for the album format (music to the major record labels’ ears, we’re sure):
At some point during this digital revolution, we lost track of the album. You may remember it; roughly an hour of music with hit singles and underappreciated tracks, seamless transitions, and a true story – all of it created by your favorite artist. Well, the Rhapsody MP3 Store is bringing it back. You’ll save money when you buy full albums and hear the music the way it was intended to be heard.
Where the Rhapsody MP3 Store genuinely scores higher than competing services is that tracks can be previewed for free in full length, not the usual 30 seconds limit. On the downside, however, as with iTunes there isn’t the ability to re-download purchased tracks in the event that your music is lost through a computer hard drive failure or similar. Instead, customers are advised to create their own backup copies.