URGE was opened on May 17, 2006. Downloaded files come with restrictions on their use, enforced by Windows Media DRM, Microsoft's digital rights management. URGE features the music programming of MTV, CMT, and VH1 and provides editorial content for the online music service. URGE currently charges 99¢ a track, or $9.95/month for a subscription. An optional $14.95/month to-go subscription is available for those with PlaysForSure devices. As of May 2008, URGE is not compatible with Microsoft's Zune or Apple's iPod.
In the spring of 2007, MTV Networks launched the digital audio radio service URGE Radio, available through cable operators. URGE Radio offers 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. Many cable systems are starting to offer the service to their customers.
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.
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.
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 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.