Blog Post

Napster Relaunches Free, Online Version; Community-Focus; First Look

As had been expected since late last year, Napster has launched a new, online and mostly freee version of its digital music service, in a bold attempt to make some headway in the competitive and low-margin online music business. This follows RealNetworks’ Rhapsody music service which launched a 25-song-free-streaming a month last year, but this, as David Card points out to the new FAQ, “You can listen to every track in our 2,000,000 song catalog up to 5 times for FREE. That’s 10 million free plays! After the 5th free play of any single track, you can either purchase the track or become a Napster subscriber.” Napster is sharing ad revenues with labels, but it doesn’t appear to have renegotiated streaming royalties for the free product, noted Card.
As, as Card points out again, “Napster is mimicking Rhapsody’s Web services play, but in a fashion that seems more MySpace-, or community-friendly. It seems pretty easy to paste Napster Links to any personal page, a wiki, or an email.”
Also, it is going to launch Narchive..sort of like Flickr+music Wikipedia for music fans, mixing professional writeups of artists with user-generated content.
The main free-streaming service is only available in U.S. for now..I can’t access it from UK (I am in London this week), its second biggest market.
USAToday: “This is the closest we have ever come to the original vision of the Napster service that swept the world in 1999 — except now, it’s legal,” says Napster CEO Chris Gorog. Napster has 600,000 subscribers. Walt Disney and Guitar Center have signed up as sponsors; more will be announced this week.
Lot more details about the new Napster here in the FAQs.
Staci’s first look: Not all of the features were working yet — including the TOS page and some community elements — but the link generator did its job, allowing me to post a link to free play of a song to my link blog in a matter of minutes. Registration’s easy if you agree to a TOS you can’t read. I was tempted to listen to a song five times just to see what would happen the sixth but will leave that for another day. Most important for analysts, who have been waiting impatiently for Napster to deliver, Napster isn’t backing off its pay service — the player includes a constant reminder that subscribing is better. It also includes an ad window; choose the pay option and advertising is supposed to disappear. This could up Napster’s relevancy factor considerably and give it a needed boost. One caveat: it seems to work better in IE than Firefox.