Here we go again. Napster, the peer-to-peer song sharing system that flooded the Internet with ripped MP3 tunes in 2000, is long gone. But the brand name is back for yet another relaunch as a music service approved and blessed by the major labels. I’ve lost count of the number of Napster relaunches, which says something about the lack of impact by any of them.
Later today, around 5 pm Pacific time, Best Buy will throw the switch on its own Napster relaunch, an overhaul of the company’s previous $12.95-per-month subscription service. Best Buy acquired Napster for $121 million last year.
This time, Napster’s price plan works like this: Consumers must subscribe to Napster as a $5-per-month service. In return they’ll be able to stream all the tracks they want from a library of 7 million and to download five songs per month.
Best Buy’s press release lists these features:
• Get five MP3s each month to download, with their choice of songs from the Napster MP3 library that covers all types of music from all the major labels and includes the largest catalog of independent artists available.
• Listen to any track, as often as they like, in CD quality from Napster’s catalog of more than seven million songs.
• Choose from more than 60 commercial-free radio stations and more than 1,400 expertly programmed playlists.
• Discover new music and artists through personalized recommendation tools.
• Enjoy the top hits from more than 50 years of Billboard charts. Want to know what was popular when you graduated high school? Now you can.
• Play MP3s on any MP3 player, including iPod®, iPhone® and music-enabled MP3 mobile phones.
Best Buy’s Napster shares only the brand name with Shawn Fanning’s free, unlimited, and copyright-infringing original. The new Napster will only stream to a PC, using a copy-protected format. Downloads are unprotected MP3s, with no restrictions set by Napster’s terms of service.
What if you want to download more than five MP3s in one month? A spokesman responds via email, “Customers can purchase additional MP3s from 69 cents to $1.29 with this plan. They can still also buy MP3s only from the site if they prefer.”
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