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Kazaa founders give music another try

Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis are launching a subscription music service, coming into a sector at a time when music fans have rejected all-you-can-eat models.

After seeing their last digital-media start-up crash and burn, Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis have come back with a new music service.

Screenshot Greg Sandoval/CNET

The pair, who founded Skype, Kazaa, and the ill-fated video site Joost, are behind new music subscription service, Rdio, which is scheduled to debut on Thursday.

Zennstrom and Friis first hit the music scene in the early 2000s for developing Kazaa, the file-sharing service that was accused of violating copyright in a lawsuit filed by the top music labels.

According to a story in The New York Times, Rdio will charge subscribers $5 to $10 monthly for unlimited music.

The service will supply those customers paying top dollar with streaming music accessible on a host of Web-enabled handsets, according to the Times. Rdio appears to be among a new wave of music services that are rushing into the gap left after ad-supported services began collapsing.

Subscription services are a pill that the record companies keep trying to sweeten but that reluctant music consumers keep refusing to swallow. We've seen all-you-can-eat music offers from Yahoo (closed), Rhapsody (shrinking), and Napster (irrelevant), and after years of effort, not one of the services has caught on. It's safe to say that most people want to own their music.

Into this market come Zennstrom and Friis. There was a time when everything they touched appeared to turn to gold. Kazaa was wildly popular with music fans and the pair sold their Internet telephone service, Skype, for $2.6 billion in 2006. But then the pair launched Joost, a video service that had a management shakeup early, then layoffs, a swap of of business models, and finally sale rumors.

In the company's death throes, Zennstrom and Friis ended up suing Joost's former CEO. Joost ended up folding and its assets acquired by Adconion Media Group.