Will people really pay to download music online? AOL Time Warner(NYSE: AOL) hopes so. The media giant is now promoting MusicNet, owned jointly by EMI, Bertelsmann, and AOL's own Warner Music, to its 35 million America Online subscribers.

The move represents the biggest push for payment thus far in the ongoing battle between the music industry and those naughty file swappers. MusicNet exists alongside two other pay-for-play music services, Pressplay (owned by Sony and Universal) and Rhapsody.

Customers haven't exactly been signing up in droves to pay for music from any of the services, though. An estimated 300,000 to 500,000 subscribers are currently paying to listen. Compare that to the tens of millions downloading and burning to their little renegade hearts' content through the free (and therefore illegal) service KaZaA.

MusicNet offers about 260,000 songs, in line with the other two pay services. Only 55% of Billboard's Top 200 songs are on MusicNet, but AOL promises that by year-end 100% will be represented.

Downloading and burning songs to CDs won't be cheap, though. Limited access for streaming and downloading costs $3.95 a month. It's $17.95 to actually make a CD, and that's just to burn 10 songs in an entire month -- more than the price of most complete CDs sold in stores. However, that price includes unlimited streaming and downloading privileges.

Whether this will fly with AOL subscribers remains to be seen. Hard-core file sharers and swappers aren't AOL's usual customer base, so perhaps AOL members will sign up for the service with enthusiasm.

Whatever happens, you can bet the music industry bigwigs will be watching closely.