Napster back to a free model, more or less

Hey, Napster devotees! It might be time to party like it’s
1999! Following a lengthy attempt to go legit and be a paid service at the same
time, Napster announced this morning that it is reverting to being a free music
with a few caveats, which may or may not be substantial, depending on your
point of view. The new Napster plans to use advertising as its primary revenue
stream, and as for the free part, it extends to the first five times a member
listens to a song. (Membership, unless one subscribes to a premium Napster
service, is free.) After that, users who don’t subscribe to the premium
services have to buy the track to keep listening. One thing that’s a little peculiar about the press release announcing the change is that nowhere does
it mention even the existence of the iPod, which is
sort of like avoiding the elephant in digital music’s room. Of course, when we asked the company about that, they replied that Apple prohibits sharing between iPod and any other service besides iTunes, so there you have it. If you’re interested, you can stream Napster CEO Chris Gorog’s announcement of the new model, which seems to happening at 11:15 a.m. PST today at the Musexpo2006 show in Los Angeles.

—Posted by Catharine P. Taylor