Melodeo to Take iTunes Playlists Mobile

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Digital music service Melodeo has said it plans to launch a service which will let iTunes users stream music in playlists in their personal music libraries to their mobile phones. The service would also enable iTunes users to tap into their music libraries from more than one computer.

The announcement comes just weeks before the launch of Apple’s intensively-watched iPhone, which combines a mobile phone with PIM applications, Internet access, and (as Mr. Jobs would put it) a widescreen iPod. The idea behind Melodeo’s service is to let users access their iTunes libraries from their cell phones, without having to by Apple’s much-hyped (and very expensive) new mobile device.

To use the service, users would upload their playlists to Melodeo; when they want to play their music, they would be able to choose from titles in their pre-defined playlists. Melodeo isn’t actually reconnecting to a user’s computer, downloading the selected song, and then streaming that data to the end user; instead, the company is merely playing songs based on the data in the iTunes playlist. Melodeo believes that it only has to pay usage fees associated with a Web-based radio service—although those fees are currently the subject of much gnashing-of-teeth. Melodeo understands that there’s nothing guaranteeing users actually own the songs included in the playlists, and sees that as an asset: users may create playlists to introduce music to friends, and folks may find it easier to subscribe to Melodeo’s service than to buy and download music on their own.

Of course, if music in a playlist isn’t available to Melodeo, users who want to stream it to their phones will be out of luck—a limitation which may be particularly galling to fans of indie music, rarities, or local acts.

Melodeo says the service is in testing now, and Melodeo’s vice president of music services has told Reuters the company hopes to launch the service in the next six to twelve weeks in partnership with a mobile carrier. Melodeo would earn money based on either a subscription fee to use the service, data download fees, or embedded advertisements. Melodeo already delivers Web-based audio to cell phones, concentrating on podcasts.