RealNetworks will end its three-week "Freedom of Choice" online music promotion today, after selling in excess of three million songs at its loss-making price, 49 cents.

In an attempt to secure a little market share against Apple's iTunes service and promote its RealPlayer 10.5 software, RealNetworks last month slashed prices on music downloads to $0.49 per song and $4.99 for most albums. That compares to the regular $0.99 per song and $9.99 per album charged by most services.

The promotion has been a success, said Dan Sheeran, senior vice president at RealNetworks: "The three million downloads put us in a very strong number two position in terms of market share for downloads and knocks a few market share points, at least, off of Apple's position," he said. Apple is considered the market leader.

real's discount record-bin

To keep luring customers with low prices, RealNetworks will now offer ten songs each week that will be sold for $0.49 a track. The ten songs will be in a list called the Rolling Stone Top ten compiled by RealNetworks and Rolling Stone magazine, Sheeran said.

The Rolling Stone Top Ten is a combination of the most popular tracks from Rolling Stone's charts as well as from RealNetworks' download store and its Rhapsody subscription service. "There is going to continue to be a price incentive to come check out our store," Sheeran said.

Harmony, what harmony?

With RealPlayer 10.5, RealNetworks last month introduced a technology called Harmony that allows consumers to download songs they can transfer to and play on a wide variety of portable digital media players, including Apple's popular iPod devices. However, the service, declared under the flag of 'freedom of choice', does not work with Macs.

The introduction of Harmony sparked a showdown with Apple over whether RealNetworks is allowed to offer songs that can be played on the iPod. Apple even accused its Seattle-based rival of adopting "the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod" and said it would investigate the legal ramifications of Harmony.

Perhaps pending the return of company CEO, Steve Jobs, Apple hasn't acted against RealNetworks yet, Sheeran said. "We have not heard from Apple."