Listen.com Inc. managed to head off other anticipated music subscription services at the pass Monday by launching its Rhapsody digital music streaming service, boasting content from 46 independent record labels.
But although Rhapsody beat other long-awaited subscription services such as Pressplay and MusicNet to launch, the service has still to attain the major-label content these big guns already have in their holsters. However, a source close to the company said Monday that Listen.com is currently negotiating with several major labels and could announce a deal with one of them in as soon as a week, with other major-label agreements likely in the first quarter of next year.
MusicNet, the child of AOL Time Warner Inc., Bertelsmann AG, EMI Group PLC and RealNetworks Inc., is expected to become available on Tuesday with the launch of RealNetwork's RealOne content subscription channel. Pressplay, formed by Vivendi Universal SA and Sony Music Entertainment Inc., was initially set to be launched by the end of this year but has yet to be unveiled.
Rhapsody is offering unlimited streaming on-demand playback for a monthly fee, in addition to free Internet radio from more than 50 stations, creation and sharing of playlists and editorial reviews and recommendations from Listen.com staff.
The service offers three different subscription options. For US$5.95, consumers can opt for either the "Sampler" program, which offers users a catalog of varying musical genres, such as rock, blues, country and electronica, or the "Naxos Classical" catalog, which offers classical music from the Naxos of America label. The "Sampler Plus" option combines the previous catalogs into a single subscription service for $7.95 a month.
Rhapsody content partners include independent labels JamDown Records, 26.2 Music, Jazzateria, Slimstyle Records, and Eroica Classical Recordings. The company said that it will continue to add to its catalogs, which currently boasts over 30,000 songs.
Unlike the other nascent subscription services, Rhapsody's subscription service offers streaming music playback, as opposed to a download. The company said that it will offer Rhapsody as a cobranded service to broadband and Internet service providers as well as offering it directly via Listen.com. The company already penned a deal with Seattle-based broadband provider Speakeasy Inc.'s Speakeasy.net last October.
The company is currently offering free three-day trials of the service on Listen.com's site.