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Ruckus Networks’ free, ad-supported college music service goes nationwide

Posted on 02/01/2019 | in 杭州夜生活 | by

Ruckus Networks, which bills itself as the "premiere digital entertainment service for universities," has inked an agreement with the major record labels to offer free music downloads to college students in the US. The service will be ad-supported and open to anyone with a .edu e-mail address, although faculty, staff, and alumni will be charged $8.95 per month for the service.HangZhou Night Net

The tracks themselves will be DRMed WMP files; in other words, not iPod- or Zune-friendly. In addition, students will be restricted to listening to their free downloads at their PCs. The ability to move tracks to a PlaysForSure-compatible digital music player will cost students $4.99 per month. Along with the music, Ruckus also offers social networking features including shared playlists, message boards, and song recommendations.

In order to launch the free service, Ruckus had to convince the record labels to lower their wholesale prices according to the New York Times. The labels went along, assuming that college students would rather download music from peer-to-peer networks or other sources than pay to get it from legitimate sources.

"This is a major milestone for Ruckus, but much more importantly, for the growing community of college and university students and faculty we have been interacting with for the past three years," said Michael Bebel, president and CEO of Ruckus. "We look forward to providing the same great user experience with an incredible library of content, to an even greater number of users nationwide."

Opening up the service to college students across the country marks the latest evolution in the Ruckus business model. Initially, the company charged universities to offer its music service, including a Ruckus server located on the campus network. That model had limited attraction for the schools, so Ruckus decided to stop charging them and rely solely on advertising while still requiring the installation of a Ruckus server on campus.

Will the ready availability of free music catch the attention of college students nationwide? In its press release, Ruckus offers an enthusiastic quote from a Northeastern University student: "You can’t beat free when it comes to downloading music," according to Matt Hitch. "Lots of my friends at other schools always talk about how great the Ruckus service is, and I’m really happy I can use it now too. The Ruckus service has a great music library, it is easy to use and it’s going to get a lot more popular now that it is more widely available."

Here’s a reality check for Ruckus and Hitch: students at Ruckus-enabled universities haven’t found the service very compelling. A semester-long trial of Ruckus’ free service at American University in 2005 bears this out. 41 percent of the students there said that American University should only offer Ruckus to those who opt in. Perhaps more telling, almost half the students didn’t even bother to use the service, despite the fact that it was free.

Those results demonstrate that "free" is only half of the picture. Ruckus—and the record labels—are missing the other half of the picture, usability. What good is music—free or otherwise—that you can’t listen to where you want, how you want, and on the device of your choosing?

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