Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Although Napster is portraying its new idea as a kind of return to its original values - while, simultaenously, punting it as being a cool new thing - the 'new' music offer is a bit of a puzzle.

Wasn't the whole reason why the RIAA ran the original Napster off the web because they shuddered at the existence of free music being available, because if you give some music away, customers come to assume that all music online would be free? And yet, now the RIAA-approved Napster is saying that by giving music away, that will encourage customers to try its subscription package. Surely both can't be true?

And since the RIAA claims that its main focus to stop people stealing-thieverying of music is aimed at the tech-savvy, heavy-user, aren't they exactly the sort of person who will find it easiest to take the stream of music from the "free" listens and turn it into a perpetual mp3 for their own use?

In effect, what Napster are doing is showcasing the weaknesses of the subscription model anyway - you find a tune you love, you can play it five times then it stops playing. Unless you fork over some cash, of course. (I don't know if business manuals call this the 'heroin-pusher model', but they probably should.)

By giving people a chance to see what it's like to have to constantly feed the meter to keep hold of music they might otherwise have owned forever, Napster thinks its going to get a load of sign-ups and overtake iTunes. The number of people trying to get its songs onto their iPods and failing, losing their Our Tune after a handfull of listens, or merely using AudioHijack or similar to empty the store of groceries before the charges come back suggest this idea might only have been half-thought through.