Rolling Stones catalogue goes online

Starting today, subscribers an internet website will be able to listen to streaming versions of more than 500 songs by the Stones, one of the last big-name rock acts.

For an additional 79 cents a song, subscribers to RealNetworks' Rhapsody can record on CD more than 200 Stones songs that have been released since 1971 by EMI Music's Virgin Records label. The 300 or so songs the group recorded before 1971 on the Abkco label cannot be downloaded but will be available for listening through streaming audio.

RealNetworks will have sole access to the Rolling Stones music for two weeks, before other online services can start selling the songs.

Starting today, shoppers at the 560 Best Buy stores in the United States will be able to sign up for Rhapsody. Each store will have as many as 10 interactive kiosks with Rhapsody demonstrations, and Best Buy clerks are expected to promote the service when selling computers or high-speed Internet connections. In the past, most people have subscribed to music services while online, not in a store.

RealNetworks' vice president for music, Sean Ryan, said the combination of the arrival of the Stones on the Internet and Rhapsody's availability in a major retailer "points to the mainstreaming of digital music services." He declined to give a specific revenue forecast for the program, saying that "we expect to see significant growth through the Best Buy relationship."

A senior analyst for Jupiter Research in Boston, Lee Black, said the music services, which so far have focused on starting operations, now needed to begin marketing themselves.

RealNetworks' partnership with Best Buy could be important, Mr. Black said, because "we haven't seen any real synergies between the online and offline worlds." The exposure in Best Buy might introduce Rhapsody to people who would never see it online. "It's always been a squishy thing to get somebody to try out the service," he said.

A Best Buy customer who is interested in the service will carry a Rhapsody software disc to the checkout counter, where the shopper must provide an e-mail address and a credit-card number. A password will be printed on the sales receipt and also sent in an e-mail message to the shopper. After a 14-day trial that gives access to all of Rhapsody's 360,000 songs, the shopper can cancel the service or start paying a monthly fee of $9.95. The additional 79 cents applies to any song that a subscriber chooses to store on a CD.

Other online music services, including Apple's iTunes, America Online's MusicNet and the new BuyMusic.com, are expected to start offering Rolling Stones songs on Sept. 2. The songs are from 18 albums beginning with "Sticky Fingers," which was released in 1971.

The Rhapsody service, at www.real.com, was developed by Listen.com, which RealNetworks recently acquired.

The Rolling Stones, who have an e-commerce site (www.rollingstones.com) are latecomers to the digital-music market. Other holdouts include the Beatles and Linkin Park. Ted Cohen, EMI Music's senior vice president for digital development and distribution, said the entry of the Rolling Stones might help persuade others to follow.

"It presents a nice message," Mr. Cohen said, "to anyone who's on the fence that the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world thinks it's time."

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