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eMusic goes mobile

At a price

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eMusic has launched a mobile version of its popular DRM-free music subscription service for mobile phones.

AT&T subscribers in the US will be able to snag up to five songs a month for $7.49. Songs downloaded over the air will also be "sideloaded" to the PC.

That's a pretty steep premium on mobile convenience: eMusic's "desktop" subscribers can download up to 30 songs a month for $9.99 - or 75 for $19.99. That works out as $1.50 per mobile song, versus 33 cents per song on the PC-based service.

And there could be some nasty surprises for users.

"AT&T strongly recommends an unlimited data plan before previewing tracks," states the press release.

It's an uncannily similar price to Omnifone's forthcoming MusicStation service, on which so many network operators are hedging their bets, but with tighter restrictions. MusicStation will offer unlimited downloads for $1.99 a week, with additional sideloading and a PC and Mac client for $2.99 a week. There are no additional data charges.

Even at this price, some indie labels are finding the business hard to justify. Last week, Drag City followed Victory Records in withdrawing its repertory from eMusic.

eMusic is number two in the legal digital download business, a considerable distance behind Apple's iTunes store, with a catalog of 2.7 million songs. But the company's insistence on selling songs unencumbered by DRM has left it without catalogs from the major four labels. ®

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