Napster Opens MP3 Store, Offers DRM-Free Music - InformationWeek

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5/20/2008
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Napster Opens MP3 Store, Offers DRM-Free Music

Taking a page from Apple's iTunes, downloads are 99 cents for single MP3 tracks, most albums cost $9.95, and both come with high-resolution album art.

Once considered the bad boy of file sharing and digital rights management, Napster on Tuesday launched a new MP3 store, which offers 6 million music tracks in DRM-free format.

"Music fans have spoken and it's clear they need the convenience, ease of use, and broad interoperability of the DRM-free MP3 format, and they want to be able to find both major-label artists and independent music all in one place," Napster chairman and CEO Chris Gorog said in a news announcement. "Virtually any portable device in the world can now be used to enjoy tracks purchased at Napster, which is an important breakthrough for our company."

The company claims the store is more than 50% larger than any other MP3 store, with a more extensive major-label catalog as well as the largest independent music library.

The store is poised to compete with Apple's iTunes since Napster is already an established music source and downloads will be compatible with any device, including the iPod and the iPhone.

"Developing online music services into true go-to consumer music destinations depends in large part on reducing hurdles to adoption," Susan Kevorkian, IDC's consumer markets program director, said in a statement. "By offering millions of high-quality, MP3-encoded DRM-free tracks from all of the major labels as well as independents, this service is well-positioned to appeal to the broad spectrum of music lovers, including iPod and iPhone owners."

Downloads are 99 cents for single MP3 tracks, and most albums cost $9.95. Downloads come with high-resolution album art.

Most of the MP3 catalog is available at a bit rate of 256 Kbps. The store offers subscriptions to an on-demand streaming music service, which does not require special software.

Site visitors can browse the store without commitment and listen to music from their desktops, portable music players, and mobile devices.

Napster COO Christopher Allen said that now Napster provides a "complete and synergistic digital music destination," where fans can discover and listen to music, and own all the music they want in MP3 format.

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