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RealNetworks offers free music downloads

RealNetworks is giving away 25 tracks a month in hopes of luring iPod-loving music fans into trying out their service.
/ Source: Reuters

Digital media company RealNetworks Inc. Tuesday said it expanded its music service to allow fee-paying subscribers access to more than 1 million songs, and allows others to listen to 25 songs for free each month.

The Seattle-based company, which operates the Rhapsody subscription music service, said that for about $15 a month, "Rhapsody To Go” subscribers can transfer an unlimited number of song downloads to compatible portable music players.
Only a few devices as yet support the software, including models made by Creative Technology Ltd. and iriver.
Real said music companies will be paid for the downloaded songs “at a rate that is generally comparable to full on-demand subscription services. They hope that the service will spur increases in consumer subscriptions and purchases of music.

Costs for running the service will be offset by Real’s business relationship with Google Inc. and a new sponsorship pact with DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler. Real Chief Executive Rob Glaser said the company was mulling a service to offer music wirelessly.

“We in active conversations with a number of cell-phone companies and providers,” Glaser told reporters at a press conference in New York, although he said there were no deals to announce.

Real’s new service, which had been widely expected, puts it in direct competition with Napster Inc., whose own system lets paying subscribers fill up digital music players with an unlimited amount of music instead of purchasing individual songs.

The music industry, which continues to face declining sales of CDs, views the digital music market as a key area of growth to court a new generation of listeners.

The digital music downloading business is dominated by Apple Computer Inc., with its iPod digital players and iTunes music management software.