When alternative rock group Good Charlotte took to the stage last night at Radio City Music Hall for a free concert to cap off an announcement by RealNetworks (NASDAQ:RNWK) that was originally hyped as a "revolution in digital music," I'm wondering how shareholders in the audience felt as the band broke into its 2002 hit "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."

With the shares shedding 5% of their value after yesterday's announcement of new tiers to its Rhapsody subscription service, and with the stock trading in the single digits for nearly four years now, one would think that maybe it was just the shorts singing along on that snappy little number.

RealNetworks has only itself to blame for yesterday's market letdown. Two weeks ago, it issued a press release touting an April 26 announcement of a "groundbreaking initiative in digital music" that would "change the Internet." Well, as far as revolutions go -- with dumping tea in Boston Harbor ranking on the high end of the scale -- RealNetworks' announcement was about as daring as spilling some Chai Tea Latte at the local Starbucks.

Even though many had anticipated the Rhapsody To Go tier that was rolled out, given that Napster (NASDAQ:NAPS) already had a similar portable service, you can't blame investors for expecting something bigger. Maybe a firm compatibility partnership with Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) market-leading iPod or something cutting-edge on the wireless front.

It didn't happen. Still, I do think the market is underestimating the Rhapsody 25 service that the company did roll out yesterday.

While Apple's iTunes store has been known to give away a freebie here and there -- and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) helped draw attention to its fledgling music store by giving away select Grammy nominees earlier this year -- RealNetworks is breaking the mold.

Giving users 25 free streams every month without requiring so much as a credit card at sign-up will lure more than a few curious freeloaders. While that would normally be a bad thing, the company is doing a lot more with its new freebie service than the market is giving it credit for. Overnight, it will be growing the captive audience through its jukebox software, something that is critical as it battles it out against Microsoft and Yahoo!'s (NASDAQ:YHOO) MusicMatch. By allowing you to share your playlists with friends, it is also kicking things up a notch with viral magic.

I went ahead and tried it out yesterday. I was up and running in no time and streaming Green Day's "Holiday" right away. Because the press release was brutally vague, I wanted to see what would happen if I streamed it again. Sure enough, the counter clicked down to 23.

I'm not sure how many users the free Rhapsody will convert to its premium unlimited digital music services or a la carte song and album downloads. I do know, as a fan of the company and its cash-rich balance sheet, that I am glad to see it trying to make itself matter the way it used to on the sudsier side of the dot-com bubble.

Sure, the company pulled a J.M. Barrie on its investors by making them think that they could fly with its pixie-dust hype earlier this month. They landed with a thud. But it's not the end of the world. After all, if you can't believe in yourself, who is going to believe in you?

Other tunes you may know the words to:

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz was bummed to see that his own band, Paris By Air, once signed to Sony's Columbia Records, was not on the massive Rhapsody playlist. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out tomorrow's great growth stocks a day early.