URGE (digital music service)
URGE was opened on May 17, 2006. Downloaded files came with restrictions on their use, enforced by Windows Media DRM, Microsoft's digital rights management. URGE featured the music programming of MTV, CMT, and VH1 and provided editorial content for the online music service. URGE charged 99¢ a track, or $9.95/month for a subscription. An optional $14.95/month to-go subscription was available for those with PlaysForSure devices. As of May 2008, URGE was not compatible with Microsoft's Zune or Apple's iPod, although the first-generation Zune Marketplace was based on URGE, and had many similarities.
In the spring of 2007, MTV Networks launched the digital audio radio service URGE Radio, available through cable operators. URGE Radio offered cable systems digital audio channels with continuous music commercial-free, 24 hours a day. Similar to Music Choice, song and artist info is displayed on screen.
In August 2007, MTV Networks announced plans to end its partnership with Microsoft and close URGE, and join RealNetworks on its Rhapsody digital music store.
In early September 2010, Verizon and Frontier informed their customers that they would be dropping the URGE channels due to the provider's decision to discontinue the service. At present, www.urge.com redirects users to the Website for Viacom, Inc., the parent company of MTV Networks.
URGE & Rhapsody Merger
In August 2007, URGE informed its user base that the service would soon merge with the Rhapsody music service run by RealNetworks. On Friday October 26, 2007, the integration between Windows Media Player and URGE was removed. Current subscribers to the URGE subscription services (URGE All Access & URGE All Access To Go) were automatically transferred to Rhapsody, thus requiring the subscriber to download the Rhapsody software to access and use their account.
Any subscription tracks downloaded with the URGE music service in Windows Media Player (as with any subscription based track) require that the media usage rights be updated every month for the track to be operable. As a result, subscription tracks downloaded to Windows Media Player using URGE will expire and the media usage rights will no longer be updated. A subscription based user will have to install the Rhapsody software, re-download their tracks and maintain their usage rights in the Rhapsody software as well as use Rhapsody to search for new music. It is possible to change the preferences in Rhapsody to download tracks in .WMA format thus making those tracks playable in Windows Media Player.
URGE users that paid by the track own the media rights and will not have problems using Windows Media Player to play those songs.
MTV Networks, Rhapsody, and Verizon Wireless are partnering to integrate the VCAST Music service into Rhapsody as well, thus enabling users to take advantage of their Rhapsody account on their mobile device.
At close, URGE had about 2.4 million songs available for download. Fans could download music for 99¢ a song or via one of the two subscription tiers. Subscription downloads allowed playback on three computers (also two PlaysForSure devices with the premium URGE To Go subscription). Devices and computers could be de-authorized through the account settings in Windows Media Player, allowing subscribers to change devices or computers. Subscribers may only de-authorize one PC and one device every 30 days.
There were several differences between songs downloaded through the subscription program and songs purchased though URGE. Purchased songs can be played forever, regardless of whether the purchaser is an URGE subscriber. Subscription music, on the other hand, becomes unplayable if the subscription lapses. Subscription music also cannot be burned to a CD while purchased music can. Additionally, purchased music can be copied to any WMA-enabled portable media player, not just those that are compatible with subscription services.
All music downloads have Windows Media DRM 11, which limits playback to authorized devices. For subscription users, the Windows Media DRM also requires music licenses to be renewed monthly. As a result, portable devices must be synched at least once a month, to retrieve the new licenses. Outdated licenses on a PlaysForSure device will lock all music until the device is synched.
Users can not restore their music library, including both purchased and subscription songs, in case their library is deleted or they change computers. URGE did not transfer the DRM licenses to Rhapsody. Once DRM needs to be renewed even on purchased songs or albums you will lose that song.
Rhapsody downloads can not be played on the Windows Media Player and therefore can not be shared with the Xbox 360.
URGE To Go
URGE To Go is URGE's premium subscription service. With URGE To Go fans can sync all music downloaded from URGE to two PlaysForSure compatible devices. This is not compatible with Microsoft's Zune.
There were 36 free radio stations that can be accessed by anyone with URGE configured in Windows Media Player 11. With a subscription to URGE, 102 additional radio stations are available, providing a total of 138 radio stations as of July 2007.
Streaming music videos are provided for the URGE service by MTV, VH1 and CMT. Songs which have corresponding videos are indicated by an icon to the left of the song title in URGE.
Auto-Mix, Playlists and Informer Blogs
URGE provides several features to assist in discovering new music. The My Auto-Mix feature dynamically creates a playlist based on music each visitor plays or adds to their library. Alternatively, playlists can be created based on mood, style or artist. Users can fine tune the results using three sliders for "popularity", "freshness" and "familiarity".
There are also playlists based on music genres, celebrities, television shows on MTV, VH1 and CMT and popularity.
In addition, URGE has 20 Informer blogs, which highlight music from the three major networks (MTV, VH1 and CMT) as well as music from every genre in between from afro-beat to zydeco.
The music service has been reviewed in several places. A CNET review gave the service an 7.0 on a ten point scale. However, URGE has been criticized because it installs new "features" without the user's consent.
List of URGE channels
- Feeling the “URGE,” MTV Networks Announces a New Digital Music Service in Collaboration With Microsoft a press release from Microsoft (December 13, 2005)
- MTV to Start Music Service with Microsoft, from the New York Times (December 13, 2005)
- MTV Urge review by CNET (May 14, 2006)
- I don’t want my MTV from Ed Bott's blog at ZDNet (May 16, 2006)
- PC Magazine Review (November 15, 2006)
- URGE to Merge with RealNetworks' Rhapsody (August 21, 2007)