Yahoo!'s long-awaited entry in the world of digital music stores launched today, with the unveiling of Yahoo! Music Unlimited. Taking a different pricing approach than its competitors, the service will cost merely $4.99 a month for an annual subscription (coming to approximately $60 a year), or $6.99 for a monthly subscription. However, songs are "rented" rather than owned by users, much like Napster's service. An extra fee of 79 cents is charged to own a song and for the ability to burn it to a CD. The service already has over a million songs available, which are compatible with most portable devices (though not Apple's iPod). It also works in conjunction with the Yahoo! Messenger service, allowing users' playlists to be shown and listened to.
"We are committed to being at the forefront of the rapidly growing online music segment," said Lloyd Braun, head of Yahoo! Media Group. "Yahoo! Music Unlimited draws on the best of Yahoo! to provide personalization and community features unlike anything else in the marketplace." Adds Yahoo! Music VP/GM Dave Goldberg, "For a great value, users get to listen to as much music as they want, while utilizing superior innovations in playlist generation and community features to enrich and expand their music experience."
Experts are still unsure if music fans, who are used to purchasing and owning songs and albums, will be willing to convert to the sort of rental system that is commonplace in the movie business. "There's not very much demand for it," analyst David Card of Jupiter Research told the Los Angeles Times. On the other hand, EMI SVP Ted Cohen said to the Times, "People who spend a lot of time on subscription services are buying more music," and adds that "the subscription basically creates the appetite, it doesn't fulfill the appetite for music."