Yahoo lowers the price on music, ups the ante in the download audio war

The rent-vs-own issue has broad implications for music users

Yahoo is introducing an online music subscription service that will enable users to download thousands of songs onto MP3 players for $60 a year, undercutting the prices of the current industry leaders by more than 60 percent.

The Sunnyvale-based company plans to unveil "Yahoo Music Unlimited" in a direct challenge to similar subscription services offered by RealNetworks and Napster. Yahoo is offering unlimited downloads from a library of 1 million songs for $6.99 per month or $60 for an annual subscription, a sharp discount from Napster and RealNetworks, which both charge $14.95 per month, or just under $180 annually, for similar services.

By encouraging consumers to become song renters instead of song owners, Yahoo, Napster and RealNetworks are pursuing a different sales approach from Apple Computer's iTunes music store. Under the rental model, users must pay a recurring fee and synchronize their portable music players with the subscription service at least once a month to preserve the music. If the subscription expires, the previously downloaded music becomes unplayable.

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