Just An Online Minute... AOL's MusicNet Scores Subs

by , Mar 30, 2004, 12:00 AM
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Online music services have sprouted up like so much ragweed in an unplowed field in early spring. It's getting harder to keep track of them--Apple's iTunes, Roxio's Napster, RealNetworks' Rhapsody, Virgin Digital, Yahoo!'s Launch, and the list goes on and on. There are also online music stores from Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and other retailers. Some providers market premium subscription services, others sell single digital downloads, many offer both.

All are eager for coverage. But where subscriber numbers come into play, there are fewer handraisers. So an eyebrow goes up when America Online today comes forward to say that its MusicNet@AOL service has managed to attract more than 250,000 members. Not bad, especially if we had something to compare it to. AOL Music lures more than 19 million unique visitors per month, according to comScore Networks' comScore MediaMetrix.

AOL's premium MusicNet service offers a 600,000-track catalog for $8.95 per month. Subscribers can also buy tracks on an a la carte basis for 99 cents apiece. Interestingly, AOL continues to promote Apple's iTunes Music Store; both iTunes and MusicNet are offered to members via links; "Buy songs on iTunes" for iTunes on AOL, and "Download 600,000 songs" for MusicNet@AOL.

The $8.95 fee allows all subscribers to purchase songs and burn them onto a CD and stream, on-demand, any of the 600,000 tracks in the MusicNet@AOL catalog. There's a bonus: Subscribers get access to AOL Music exclusives including Sessions@AOL, First Listen, First View, Listening Parties, and Radio@AOL. That's a lot of content, by the way.

It'd be great to see some subscriber numbers for the other online music subscription venues. Is there any traction, or has the premium subscription model yet to take hold? The a la carte approach is probably more popular. For one thing, it's cheaper and there's no commitment. Users build their own discs. It's ideal in an era of greater personalization and customization.

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