Yahoo has introduced an online music service, Yahoo! Music Unlimited, that looks darned appealing. Here’s an article about Yahoo! Music Unlimited.

Yahoo is following on the heels of Napster and Rhapsody, offering a service permitting unlimited downloads of songs for a fixed cost every month. The songs can be played on your computer and can be played on a handful of compatible mp3 players, but they can’t be burned to a CD or played on other computers – and they stop playing completely if your subscription expires.

If you consider it as a subscription to a highly customizable radio station, that’s not a bad deal. It’s not at all like downloading songs that are unrestricted, which continues to be priced artificially high by the recording industry. If you want to be free to burn CDs and share your music library, head back to the file sharing networks.

Yahoo’s introductory price is $60 for a full year – five bucks a month. That blows away the prices of the competitors and is frankly hard to resist.

The songs don’t play on iPods! If you already have an mp3 player and it’s not one of the approved models, this might not be a good choice. But if you’re in the market, think about this before you buy your player – it might be a good reason to consider the devices on the list. It’s the same list that works with Napster and Rhapsody, by the way – all of the services are built on Microsoft’s DRM technology.

The Yahoo music service is built on Yahoo software. If you try the music service, you’ll get Yahoo Messenger with the rest of the music service software, whether you want it or not. (The music service is integrated with Yahoo Messenger in some interesting ways. This will not be meaningful if you are over 25 years old.) Yahoo Messenger will then appear onscreen every time you start your computer, whether you use it or not. I have not yet discovered a way to make it start minimized, but it is possible to make the awful Yahoo Online page stop appearing when Yahoo Messenger starts.

Keep an eye out during installation. If you’re sharp, you’ll be able to avoid a couple of useless Yahoo toolbars.

You’ll need the Yahoo software to download new music, but you don’t have to use it to play the files. If you use J River Media Center, you can import the Yahoo files into Media Center and use it to fill your mp3 player instead. Here’s some updated notes about music files and Media Center.

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