College students take to Ruckus

Service that caused a stir in January by offering free music to those with .edu e-mail is seeing double-digit growth. Photos: Sansa connects

NEW YORK--Music service Ruckus Network has grown 33 percent since offering free songs to college students six weeks ago, the company said.

Mike Bebel, Ruckus' CEO, told a group of journalists Wednesday at the Digital Music Forum East conference here that the service is on its way to helping cut down illegal file sharing, which industry experts say is rampant at many of the nation's universities. Ruckus was among a handful of companies that released news at the event.

"We're taking kids off peer-to-peer file sharing," Bebel said. "Students are taking the trade-off."

Part of the trade-off with Ruckus, which offers the free service to anyone with a .edu e-mail address, is that visitors must get used to a site that features plenty of advertising. Songs downloaded from Ruckus can only be played on a PC, though music purchased or obtained from the site's premium subscription service can be transferred to a portable device.

Some analysts had predicted that tethering students to a PC would turn them off to the service. But Bebel said that many college students turn to their PCs for music listening.

"We recently surveyed our music base and found students are spending about six hours on their PC," Bebel said, "We're finding that most of the music listening at college campuses is on the PC."

Users are required to begin paying $8.99 a month for the service once they graduate. If they don't, they lose all the music downloaded from Ruckus. But the growth in adoption, Bebel said, is proof that converting to a pay service isn't scaring anybody away.

Also at the conference, iLike, a music social-networking service, said it has signed up half a million users in its first four months of service.

San Francisco-based iLike competes against the likes of LastFM and Mog. All three use software that tracks the songs customers listen to and then allows users to access that information to discover new music. LastFM has collected more than 6 billion pieces of user data, according to TechCrunch, which first reported iLike's announcement.

In addition, Zing, a company technology, showed off a Wi-Fi enabled music device that it helped build with SanDisk.

When the device, called Sansa Connect, debuts in late March, it will allow consumers to download music and photos from a wide range of services, according to Liz Juenger, the company's product evangelist.

The 4GB device will retail for $250 and is designed to give consumers the opportunity to download music without being in front of a PC.

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