Universal and Rhapsody launch DRM-free partnership "test"

Rhapsody America (the new Real / MTV partnership) wasn't the only thing that Real had up its sleeve today. Hot on the heels of the Universal snubbing of iTunes, and consequent announcement that the company would begin selling music via other outlets, comes today's news that the Rhapsody / Universal Music partnership has officially launched, at least in a limited "test" form, with the aim of selling UMG's catalog of thousands of tracks -- sans DRM -- via the Real Rhapsody service, charging $.89 per song for subscribers and $.99 for non-subscribers. Currently, only a select group of artists are up for grabs, including 50 Cent, Amy Winehouse, The Pussycat Dolls, The Police and Johnny Cash, though the plan is to make Universal's entire catalog available in the future. This announcement makes what we all knew was coming now abundantly clear -- the gloves have come off.