Music subscription sites fill next wave in digital music

By Noah Robischon
Updated June 08, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

With Napster all but silenced — usage is down 40 percent since February — the recording industry is redoubling its effort to cash in on the digital music craze. So far, that’s meant little more than a flurry of announcements. But if the labels are to be trusted, there will be at least one bona fide music-subscription service online by the end of summer, with more to come by fall. Here’s what the options will sound like.

DUET This streaming-only subscription service will launch on the Web portal Yahoo! and get backing from Sony and Vivendi Universal, which is planning to acquire for $372 million. Downloads will come shortly after the launch in late summer. Pricing has not been announced, but executives have said they’re eyeing a tiered fee structure (similar to the cable-TV model). These industry behemoths intend to make their entire catalogs available ASAP, and while no specific artists have been announced, Jennifer Lopez, U2, and Destiny’s Child are among the artists in their stables.

MUSICNET This partnership between Bertelsmann AG, EMI Group, RealNetworks, and AOL Time Warner (this magazine’s parent company) will act as a digital music warehouse that licenses streaming and downloadable tunes that will be available on partner websites. Prices will vary depending on where you get the tunes. (RealNetworks says its service may cost around $10 per month.) While the labels are promising to offer their entire catalogs eventually, expect to see tracks from Christina Aguilera, Eric Clapton, Madonna, and Dave Matthews this fall (

MTVi Songs from all five major labels are downloadable from and this summer. The pay-per-song service launched with only about 10,000 tunes, but it’s adding more.

MUSICMATCH Best known for its jukebox software, the company will add customizable streaming radio and downloadable songs to its service later this year. The new MusicMatch Radio MX service will cost $4.95 per month, or $50 annually, and the fee for downloading tracks may be added on top of that. The library, while not complete, already has 100,000 songs, including tracks from David Bowie, Radiohead, and the new Go-Go’s album (