Napster UK, a subsidiary of Roxio, has announced that the Napster 2.0 online music service went live to music fans across the United Kingdom today with what the company is calling “the UK’s largest online music catalog.” UK residents can download the new Napster 2.0 music service for free at www.napster.co.uk.
Napster 2.0 provides both a subscription service and an “a la carte download” store, allowing subscribers to listen legally to more than 500,000 full-length, CD-quality tracks — which the company said will grow to more than 700,000 tracks in the next 30 days as Roxio completes loading its catalog into the new UK service.
For those who want to buy songs to burn to CD or transfer to portable players, Napster Light offers free 30-second samples of the Napster UK catalog and the opportunity to buy singles or albums. Napster is promoting its official launch in the United Kingdom by offering all residents a free seven-day trial to its subscription service.
“Napster is a fantastic brand to launch in the UK and by carefully tailoring the service to the local market we have an unparalleled proposition for UK music fans,” said Napster UK general manager Leanne Sharman.
But given that the competition for digital music fans has been distinctly heating up over the past several months — with iTunes still in the lead and allofmp3.com, a Russian site, offering music for roughly 5 U.S. cents per track — Napster’s success globally is anything but certain.
Official Launch with Partnerships
“Napster is very pleased to bring the biggest name in online music to the biggest market in Europe,” said Chris Gorog, chairman and CEO of Napster and Roxio.
“The UK has made enormous contributions to popular music and, indeed, Napster’s incredible catalog,” said Gorog. “So it’s great to share the excitement of the new legal version of the legendary Napster with all the music fans in the UK.”
The official UK launch of Napster 2.0 follows completion of agreements in the United Kingdom with all five major record companies — BMG, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music International and Warner Music International — as well as independent labels body AIM.
The company also recently announced an exclusive, multiyear partnership with a consumer electronics goods retailer, Dixons Group, which kicks off a promotion throughout all 1,100 Dixons, PC World, Currys and The Link stores in the United Kingdom on May 21st.
Listening on Demand
After downloading the Napster jukebox for 9.95 pounds Sterling per month, Napster subscribers can listen to the digital music catalog on-demand. Users also can download any track they choose onto the hard drives of up to three PCs and listen offline — to save bandwidth while they surf or for convenience on the go.
Ten interactive advertisement-free Napster radio stations — much like competing service Rhapsody from RealNetworks — allow listeners to see which song is coming next, skip forward or jump back, with favorites easily added to their Napster library. Napster can build subscribers their own custom radio station on the fly simply by selecting three songs.
Napster’s community features — much like MusicMatch and iTunes — let subscribers browse each others’ playlists and share songs among other Napster users. Subscribers also can listen to and save full-length songs taken from the past 10 years of the UK charts, and they can purchase and burn tracks for 0.88 pounds Sterling per song when they buy multiple tracks.
If UK music fans elect not to become subscribers, they still can purchase tracks for 1.09 pounds Sterling and albums for 9.95 pounds Sterling after listening to 30-second samples of the Napster UK library. This pricing structure, while compatible numerically with the equivalent in the United States — the standard rate being US$9.95 per album at most online music stores — translates into US$17.63 at today’s exchange rate, a far cry from allofmp3.com’s roughly 75 cents per album or even iTunes’ $9.95 per album.
Napster Light users can organize their music collection in Napster by using the ripping software built in to the Napster jukebox to take tracks from CDs they already own to play on Napster, import MP3s into their Napster Library or transfer tracks they’ve bought to portable devices.
Napster has forged partnerships with several players, including Microsoft, so fans can listen to music in the living room via Microsoft’s Windows XP Media Center, or on the move with the Samsung Napster digital audio player as well as 60 other WMA-compatible devices that have digital rights management capabilities.
These compatible devices include players from Samsung, Rio, Creative and Dell. All compatible players let users drag and drop tracks to their portable device without leaving the Napster application. Additionally, Napster is working with Intel to copromote the benefits of the Napster service running on Intel-based PCs.