Not only did Rhapsody launch a DRM-free MP3 music store — see Steve O’Hear’s coverage today — but it also has engaged with Verizon Wireless to offer a new mobile subscription plan called VCAST Music with Rhapsody.
Verizon notes that, for the cost of a single CD, its wireless users can subscribe to VCAST Music with Rhapsody for $15 a month to gain unlimited access to Rhapsody’s five million songs. These songs will carry digital rights management to protect against copyright infringement and illegal file sharing. Users can authorize three PCs and three mobile phones for use with the service.
However, Verizon subscribers also have the option to purchase music over-the-air for $1.99 a track, which includes a “complimentary” DRM-free master copy that users can download from their PCs via a VCAST Music with Rhapsody software program at a later time. This software is not available for the Mac.
VCAST with Rhapsody works on VCAST-compatible phones such as the Motorola W755, the Samsung SCH-u550, Glyde, and Juke, and the LG Decoy and Dare. The service also will be available for the Chocolate 3 when it’s available, probably at the end of July.
“We announced today our music without limits strategy, and Verizon is at the center,” RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser said in a conference call. “By integrating Rhapsody on the PC and mobile, it allows people to get music where they want it and when they want it.”
John Harrobin, senior vice president of digital media for Verizon, was on the conference call with Glaser. He did not offer any insight into the number of people who use VCAST because it is not a subscription service. He did say VCAST has “millions of customers each quarter.”
Rhapsody’s moves, and Verizon’s involvement, is not thought to be a full frontal assault on Apple and it’s market-leading iTunes Store, which also features desktop and OTA downloads. Rather, the executives say, they are embracing the success of Apple services and products and hoping to extend the digital music market.
“The issue isn’t weather Verizon can take down iTunes,” Russ Crupnick, a senior analyst at the NPD Group, told News.com, “but rather can it help grow the market? And I think the answer to that is yes. Verizon is very well positioned for that.”