Techcrunch reported today that college music service Ruckus has shut down without any warning, leaving many of its users in the cold.

pic of ruckus shut down notice

Ruckus was a campus-based music subscription service that offered students free, ad-supported and DRM-protected music. From Techcrunch:

"We’re told that music that has not passed its “renew date” still works, but that music that has expired will no longer work because the DRM licensing server has apparently shut down."

Ruckus used Microsoft's Windows Media DRM to protect its music, and users hat to get a new license every 30 days, which means that there will be a whole lot of songs on hard disks in doorm rooms nationwide that will transform themselves into useless digital garbage within the next 30 days.

It's unclear how many users Ruckus had until it shut down, but the service had a substantial foot print in the college market: Ruckus had official relationships with 250 schools nationwide, and it claimed to have users at more than 1000 schools. Mashable reported back in 2007 that Ruckus clocked about 20 million song downloads per month.

However, the college market was apparently hard to monetize. Napster previously tried to get college students to sign onto its service with heavily discounted subscription rates that were bundled with tuition fees, but the company abandoned this idea last summer because it wasn't making them any money.

With Ruckus shut down, users will undoubtedly be looking for alternatives. I wouldn't be too surprised if many just go back to downloading music from P2P networks and sites like Rapidshare. However, this doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing for the music industry. Warner Music hired online music visionary Jim Griffin a year ago to pursue the idea of legalizing file sharing throuh collective licenses, and Griffin is reportedly busy setting up a licensing body called Choruss.

First order of business for Choruss will be to license universities. The plan calls for students to pay a small fee as part of their tuition, maybe 5 dollars per month or so, and in return get the right to legally share music with their peers in any way they want. Swap MP3s with Limewire, download torrents from the Pirate Bay, restart those LAN sharing search engines, or whatever else they have in mind. With Ruckus shut down, universities could have yet another good reason to sign up for Choruss.

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