Music specialist RealNetworks today announced a European launch date for its Rhapsody music download service, which has been performing extremely well in the US.

Rhapsody will be available to UK users around springtime next year, facing direct competition from Virgin, HMV, Microsoft MSN and Tiscali, all of which have similar services available throughout Europe.

But the rash of new services are no competition for the illegal download sites such as Kazaa and Grokster, both of which have accumulated a huge following.

Rhapsody will offer access to 385,000 songs for streaming and 275,000 for permanent download for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99 (about £5.50) and an additional 79 cents per download (about 50p).

RealNetworks has not released pricing for UK audiences, but they are expected to mirror US charges.

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