iTMS Gets More Serious Competition In The Music Market From MusicMatch

Apple has what may be the first serious competition in the online music business from a company it is currently working with, MusicMatch. That company currently provides the software to manage music for Windows-using iPod owners. The software, called MusicMatch Jukebox, interfaces with the iPod, and allows the playback of songs on Windows machines. It also includes built-in streaming "radio" capabilities, including free and subscription services.

According to USA Today, the MusicMatch company is launching its own online music store that is based not in the browser like is, but in the Jukebox software itself, just like iTunes. The service will run off of Microsoftis WMA file format, offer songs at US$.99 each, and offer unlimited CD burns and transfers to most current MP3 players (except the iPod). The latter restriction is because Apple wouldnit work with MusicMatch, according to the company. From USA Today:

MusicMatch Download is more subtle than the usual e-commerce concept: While listening to pre-existing tracks or online radio using MusicMatchis popular music-playing software — with 40 million registered users — fans will take advantage of MusicMatchis built-in recommendation service and buy other tunes. "We know more about peopleis musical tastes than anybody," Mudd says.

MusicMatch already has 160,000 paid subscribers to its radio offerings (free versions also are available), but users donit need to subscribe to download. They can either update their current software or download it at, sign up for an account and start buying songs.

The downloads are in the Windows Media format, which can be played on most modern digital portables but is not compatible with the most popular unit — Appleis own iPod. Apple, a likely competitor, wasnit willing to work with the company on the download store, Mudd says. Windows Media files are "secure" files, locked so they canit be shared online or altered in any way.

Analyst Phil Leigh of Inside Digital Media says MusicMatch should find a much better reception than previous Windows download services, thanks to the loosened restrictions. "Consumers wonit pay anyone to complicate their lives," he says.

He says that having the service tied closely to the player software — as iTunes does, and BuyMusic, which uses any Web browser, does not — makes sense: "Who wants to listen to a song, go to another program to buy it and another to burn?"

Thereis more information in the full story.