MusicNow Offers Songs for a Buck

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MusicNow, previously a subscription-only music service, now offers a la carte downloads for 99 cents. The company is working with Best Buy to promote the service.

The success of Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store has prompted yet another paid music service to offer single-song purchase and downloads.

iTunes by apple

MusicNow is teaming up with retailer Best Buy to sell 99-cent songs without a monthly subscription fee, the companies said Monday.

"(The a la carte download option) gives people an easy way to get started with us and develop a relationship with us," said Greg Rudin, vice president of marketing for MusicNow. "What's really important is that the downloads work seamlessly with over 40 devices. There isn't another option like that on the market right now."

The company tailored its service to be compatible with a range of portable digital music players from companies like Creative, Rio, Digitalway and iRiver.

Apple and Napster have touted their own devices -- the wildly popular iPod and the new Napster Samsung player -- for use with iTunes and Napster, respectively.

iPod seems to get a lot popular

"The reason that we're adding MusicNow is that we carry a large variety of other (digital music) devices and there really wasn't a music service designed for them," said Scott Young, vice president of digital entertainment for Best Buy.

Young said Best Buy wants to provide customers with a variety of options for digital music players and digital music services. The company already sells a variety of subscription services, including Internet access, satellite TV, phone service and's Rhapsody.

"The bigger picture for us is making sure that the customers know that Best Buy has what they are looking for," Young said. "We think that there will be a lot of competition in the market this holiday season."

Wal-Mart is also expected to announce a digital music download service before the end of this year.

The MusicNow download service debuts on the Best Buy website Nov. 16. It initially will be accessible only through In December and January, a la carte downloads will roll out at and through its network of partners like Charter and Clear Channel.

Previously, MusicNow members had two options: Pay $5 per month for pre-programmed radio stations or $10 a month for unlimited streaming and tethered downloads. Permanent downloads were available for 99 cents. The subscription services are still available, but now a monthly subscription is not required for the dollar downloads.

If Best Buy customers purchase one of the portable digital music players and sign up for the $10 MusicNow monthly service, they'll receive 10 free downloads.

Beginning Nov. 16, Best Buy will sell $20 pre-paid download cards for use with the new service. Napster's $15 pre-paid cards also go on sale that day at Best Buy.

IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian said MusicNow and Best Buy are a "compelling combination."

"Best Buy has such a strong name among music and consumer electronics buyers," Kevorkian said. "It's a brand name that consumers already identify."

Kevorkian called the retailer "bullish" and "experimental" in its music download strategy. The company has offered downloads in the past through its site.

She said a well-known name like Best Buy takes the burden off MusicNow to do its own marketing.

"This is just the latest announcement in a series and we're likely to see more in the coming months," she said. "It's one more indication that 2003 has been a critical year for the development of online music services."


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