Service brings iTunes music to any mobile phone

A new service from Melodeo lets cell phone users listen to their iTunes music

Even before Apple's much anticipated iPhone hits US shelves later this month, users of many different kinds of phones can listen to their iTunes music, via a new service from Seattle company Melodeo.

Anyone can use the beta version of NuTsie, launched on Tuesday, by signing up and then exporting their iTunes playlists to NuTsie. Users don't actually upload their music files, only the metadata of the files which identifies the songs. After receiving an application via text message to their phones, they can start listening to their playlists.

On the backend, Melodeo is assembling a library of music so it can stream the songs to users. When a user chooses to listen to music from their playlist, Melodeo streams it from its own library. The company adheres to "radio rules," the same guidelines that govern how broadcast radio and online stations play music and then pay artists and record companies for the right to play the songs.

Because Melodeo follows radio rules, NuTsie has a few quirks. For instance, users can't pick individual songs from their libraries, they can only listen to their playlists. Also, playlists don't play in the order that the user made them -- NuTsie shuffles the order. If a user's playlist includes a full album, Melodeo must insert random songs into its playback in order to comply with the rules.

For now, NuTsie supports 15 phones, although the Java application may work on other phones. Melodeo is developing a Brew version and a Windows Mobile client.

Most users will want to subscribe to an unlimited data plan from their mobile operator before using the service, otherwise the cost to stream the music could be high. Melodeo is recommending that users have third generation service, even though the stream uses just 24K bps (bits per second), in order to get a high quality service, said Dave Dederer, vice president of music content at Melodeo.

So far, Melodeo has a library of 500,000 songs, and is adding around 10,000 songs every couple days, he said. That means that some songs users might have from iTunes, which has a library 5 million strong, might not play.

The service shouldn't anger Apple and that wasn't Melodeo's intent, Dederer said. "People have invested time and energy into their libraries and we're trying to embrace and extend that universe," he said. "It's an extension of the value you're already getting out of the iTunes universe."

There's another plus to the service. "We monetize music that's illegally stored in an iTunes library," said Dederer, who is himself a songwriter, record label owner and member of the band The Presidents of the United States of America. That's because when NuTsie streams a song from a playlist that a user may have illegally downloaded, Melodeo pays the artist and record company for streaming the song.

Melodeo hopes to launch NuTsie commercially in six to eight weeks and hopes to also soon launch with a carrier partner that could decide to offer a subscription to the service. The company hasn't yet decided how to charge for the service. It could offer it via a monthly subscription or with a one time fee for downloading the application. Melodeo is also looking into visual and audio advertising so that users could access it for free, Dederer said.

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Nancy Gohring

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