Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Napster Goes All MP3, DRM-Free

Napster, once the bane of the RIAA and now, as you know, legit, made big news at CES 2008 when it announced that it was planning to offer its entire catalog in the unprotected MP3 format. And while Amazon MP3 made a big splash last year when it launched, numbers-wise, Napster has them easily beaten with 6 million MP3s now available, as of Tuesday.

In a press release, Napster Chairman and CEO Chris Gorog said:
"Music fans have spoken and it's clear they need the convenience, ease of use and broad interoperability of the DRM-free MP3 format, and they want to be able to find both major label artists and independent music all in one place. Napster is delighted to deliver all of this and more with the world's largest MP3 catalog. Our new MP3 store, together with our award-winning 'all you can eat' music subscription service, provides the most comprehensive and exciting music experience available. Virtually any portable device in the world can now be used to enjoy tracks purchased at Napster, which is an important breakthrough for our company."
Of course, while pretty much any player can play MP3s, Napster makes sure you know the ubiquitous iPod and iPhone are (obviously) supported as well.

All four major labels, along with tons of indies are represented in the store. Every track will be available at the seemingly standard $0.99 price point. Most albums, according to Napster, will be $9.95.

It should be noted that despite all these MP3 format stores, no one seems to be able to make a dent in iTunes' market share. It's not for lack of trying, but most consumers, it seems, find it so easy to just use the iTunes software to buy their songs, and where does that obviously send them for their purchases?

While I, and others, prefer the more standard MP3 format to even the unprotected AAC format that iTunes supplies when you buy a DRM-free song from them, simplicity and ease-of-use, or ease-of-purchase, I guess, still wins out.

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