Online music service Napster—now a subsidiary of Best Buy—has been struggling to find an audience in a market dominated by Apple’s iTunes along with music and streaming services offered by the likes of Real Networks, Pandora, and others. Now, in an effort to draw more listeners to its service—and more dollars to its corporate checkbook—Napster has unveiled a new $5 per month streaming music option, which includes all the streaming music a listener can handle, plus five DRM-free song downloads per month which are the user’s to keep forever, regardless of whether they keep paying for a subscription.
“There’s no need to settle for 30-second clips to decide if you want to buy a song,” said Napster CEO Chris Gorog, in a statement. “For five bucks now you can have access to our entire music catalog and get five MP3s to add to your permanent collection.”
Napster’s catalog currently covers more than seven million tracks from major labels and independents, while Napster’s streaming services offers more than 60 ad-free stations along with over 1,400 “expertly programmed” playlist. Although Napster’s streaming service doesn’t enable users to transfer music to portable music players or burn CDs, the MP3s that come with the subscription can be used on essentially any music device, including iPods.
Music streaming subscriptions are particularly popular with music listeners who like to constantly hear and discover new music—both current chart-toppers as well as new off-the-beaten-path releases. If Napster can prove to consumers that it offers a legitimate, inexpensive option for staying on top of new music, the service might well be able to expand its user base…particularly since market-leader Apple has shown no indication it wants to get into the music streaming business.