Most of the recent news about former file-sharing bad boy Napster has been speculation about what company it might pick to be its new daddy. Despite giving away free MP3 players and a free ad-based music service to promote its online music services, the company has struggled to succeed in a digital music market dominated by Apple’s iTunes—especially since the Windows Media-encoded music offered by Napster doesn’t work in Apple’s iconic iPod media players. Although no one has said anything on the record, Napster is widely known to have been talking to several potential new owners.
Those possible buyers might be taking a new look at Napster today, as online giant AOL has decided to ditch its brand-new Music Now music subscription service in favor of Napster. AOL Music Now was launched in August 2006 and boasts about 350,000 subscribers; unless those subscribers opt out, they will have their subscriptions transitioned to Napster within the next two months; users will retain their music libraries through the transition, and Napster will honor AOL Music Now’s pricing structure and pre-paid music credits. AOL will promote Napster subscriptions through its own AOL Music site. The AOL Music Now subscribers would add substantially to Napster’s subscriber base, which the company recently reported as 566,000.
“We are pleased to provide our subscribers the opportunity to seamlessly transition to Napster, which will become the only music subscription service integrated into AOL Music,” said Mike Rich, Vice President, AOL Entertainment, in a statement. “Music Now subscribers can look forward to enjoying a world-class music experience from Napster.”
AOL Music Now started life as an online music service run by electronics retailer Circuit City, AOL bought it in 2005 to replace its own struggling music service.