MP3.com sets sights on subscriptions

The online music company launched a new subscription service in an effort to move music fans from free downloadable music.

2 min read
MP3.com said Tuesday it has launched a new subscription service in a move to raise money and reach profitability.

MP3.com's Premium Listener Service, or PluS Express, combines the My.MP3.com online music-storage service with a player that includes features such as the ability to burn songs to CDs, transfer music to a portable device, view ad-free streaming and browsing, manage a personal library, and stream up to 50 CDs per year to an online account.

My.MP3.com, launched about a year and a half ago, led to a flurry of lawsuits against the company over copyright infringement that eventually forced it to pay some $150 million in settlements and judgments, and ultimately contributed to its sale to Vivendi Universal last month.

The debut of MP3.com's new subscription offering signals the latest effort to move online music fans away from free downloadable music to paid services. The record industry to date has been beefing up such initiatives as seen with the development of MusicNet and Pressplay, formerly known as Duet.

MP3.com is "trying to create a new revenue stream, so they're looking for a non-advertising, revenue-based service. This is one of them," said Gartner analyst P.J. McNealy. But MP3.com "has a challenge to communicate the value proposition beyond the locker-storage services."

In April, record labels Warner Music Group, EMI Recorded Music and BMG Entertainment joined with streaming media company RealNetworks to develop MusicNet, a music-subscription service that recently struck a distribution agreement with controversial file-swapping service Napster.

MTVi Group and infrastructure company RioPort also teamed to offer paid song downloads through MTVi's Web sites. And Web portal Yahoo unveiled a partnership with Duet, a joint venture between Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, to launch an online music-subscription service.

MP3.com said its new service, which costs $2.99 a month or $29.99 a year, offers people with access to more than 1 million songs, including songs from the major record labels and from 150,000 artists who posted music to the site.

"Nobody wants to scrap their entire music collection when they sign up for an online music-subscription service, which will likely only have a tiny fraction of the music they want to listen to," MP3.com Chief Executive Michael Roberson said in a statement. Rather, "consumers want a platform where digital music expands their music collection."