RioPort to launch subscription music service

Adding to the list of long-awaited digital music subscription services, RioPort Inc. said Wednesday it will launch early next year a new feature in its PulseOne service that allows users to pay for digital music on a subscription basis.

RioPort has struck licensing deals with five major record labels, which enables them to sell and rent a vast library of songs over the Internet. So far the company has limited its service to allow users to purchase singles and albums online, but plans to expand that to subscriptions in the first quarter of 2002.

PulseOne is the company's ASP (Application Service Provider) service, created to allow partners to use its streaming and digital rights management technology to distribute digital music over the Web. That service currently allows users to stream music samples and promotional downloads that expire after 30 days, as well as purchase singles and albums digitally. Companies currently using RioPort's services to distribute music online include MTVi Group, Radio Free Virgin, House of Blues, and others.

RioPort's planned launch of the subscription service will come just as the major record labels expect to launch similar offerings of their own. Bertelsmann AG, AOL Time Warner Inc. and EMI Recorded Music parent company EMI Group PLC announced in April that they are work working together with RealNetworks Inc. to develop MusicNet, a music-subscription service.

Vivendi Universal SA and Sony Music Entertainment Inc. also announced a joint venture to develop a subscription-based service, due for launch sometime in the fourth quarter. Originally called Duet, the service has since been renamed Pressplay and has signed up Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN network to offer the service.

Embattled song-swapping service Napster Inc. is also in the midst of retooling its service to be offered as a fee-based subscription service.

The market for selling digital music downloads and subscriptions is pegged to reach as much as US$1.6 billion by 2005, according to research from International Data Corp.

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