Digital Music

Napster: If You Can’t Sell It, Give It Away

image from reviews.cnet.comNapster & Dell Join Forces For Free Promotion

Paid music subscription services have had troubled gaining the traction that many in the industry had hoped for.  In an attempt to boost its numbers prior to the launch of Spotify and other rumored free streaming services in the U.S.,  Best Buy owned Napster has partnered with Dell to offer its music service free on new computers.image from

  • Select Dell systems will come loaded with 1 free year of Napster including 60 free MP3’s and 12 months of free music streaming.
  • Consumers can download the MP3’s onto any compatible device
  • The Napster icon is pre-loaded on the PC desktop, so the music is just a click away.

Reader Question: Why do you think paid music subscription services have not been more successful?

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  1. I’ve always liked owning music, and I have very little interest in ‘renting’ it. In the ipod age, I like knowing it’s there at my fingertips, that I can put on whatever song I want instantly — even when I’m in a subway tunnel. So, anything that tethers me to the internet is out. Also, it’s easy to find new music these days, but I usually listen to what I know and love, and maybe 1 album every couple months makes it into my ‘inner circle’.
    For all these reasons, subscription services have not been attractive to me yet. What would sway me? Maybe including some number of actual downloads, the whole “to go” thing (i.e., predownloaded streams), a really good music discovery engine (a la Pandora), etc. But for now, I’m perfectly happy with my eMusic subscription…

  2. They haven’t been successful because the industry missed the boat completely. They should have been trying to implement these digital marketing systems when Napster FIRST hit. Now there’s multiple formats for you to “share” files and it’s become so widespread that no streaming or listen-and buy service makes sense because the majoirty of these still promote major label artists which is not what I’m interested in. I am a collector of music I deem worthy and purchase vinyl on a regular basis but in terms of CDs I don’t bother. The only way I’ll buy music these days is if a performer I like comes to town and I get to see them live. If the show is good and I still like the music after, then I’ll buy a CD right there. Without a good live show the music isn’t worth squat, and that goes for any gendre.

  3. Music is art. Would you rent a painting for your collection, have it on your wall and then when the time is up, give it back? I wouldn’t.
    The closest thing I get to having a subscription to music is Sirius/XM. I hear new music on it in a radio format. The stuff I don’t like I ignore and the stuff I do like I try to go out and buy.

  4. Music is different from physical paintings. You can make perfect copies of music digitally or access it online. It’s still the same. Internet access is becoming available everywhere and on mobile devices. MP3s are cumbersome…having to transfer copies to all your devices is time consuming. Plus, streaming services now offer better sound quality than MP3s. I see the end of MP3s coming very soon.
    Dan Gardner

  5. Q. “Why do you think paid music subscription services have not been more successful?”
    A. Because they have not been compatible with the market-dominating music player, the iPod.
    I’m not even sure what portable hardware was compatible with these services, honestly. There’s some appeal to me in paying $15/month or so for unlimited previewing, even if “rental,” if I can convert the stuff I really want to purchased, permanently owned files without a lot of hassle. But I’d be tied to the computer for my previewing. I need to be able to play the darn rented tunes in the car, and that means either unrestricted MP3 files, or iTunes AAC files. (Ooops, there is no way to enforce a rental expiration on MP3 files, and Apple has refused to come up with an expiration system for iTunes.)

  6. Subscription models haven’t worked because your average music consumer doesn’t care about a lot of music. They just want whatever’s cool… music, movies, games, clothes; whatever. They want the top 200 singles and thats all they know, they wouldn’t know where to start with unlimited music.

  7. By the same token, I’d say dedicated music fans aren’t attracted to streaming either, because they are not interested in everything — they usually have one (or several) genres that they are into, specific bands, etc. For people that really care about music, not actually owning it feels sort of insecure. If eMusic goes under tomorrow, I still have all my music; if (subscription service) goes under, I have nothing. Either way I’ve probably spent about $150-200/year.
    Just a thought, but perhaps their could be niche markets for genre or subgenre ‘branded’ streaming services… Something that leverages the editorial credibility of an existing magazine/blog. I could envision a streaming service partnering with a magazine like Paste or The Source, to produce an integrated subscription for unlimited music, print issues, premium online content, etc. The subscription service would still access the full catalog, but provide focus through a unique portal with prominent reviews, relevant new albums, etc.

  8. The issue with subscription services boils down the fact that there is no one subscription service that offers everything musically. No one is going to pay 15$ a month for one service only to find out that another service (at another 15$ a month) has the other 50% of the artists the listeners wants.
    The music industry is still so compartmentalized regarding rights and licensing. Apple has succeeded not just because of the device but because iTunes has such a wide offering of music and artists. You don’t need to go anywhere else. It’s a no brainer to use. Look at cellphone artist exclusives. You can’t buy a track or an album unless you are on that very network. It’s totally backward walled garden thinking.
    Will streaming offer a solution? Only streaming if treated as just a delivery method and we don’t end up with 50 different companies all offering different catalogs for different fees. It’s akin to each record label having their own propriety CD format where every listener has to buy a new device to play it on every single time.

  9. Most services are not global and have silly or outdated licensing laws. Some are simply ridiculous in the Internet age. Some services are good only for EU, some for the US, and none comes even close in platform, accessibility or inclusiveness such as the one OiNK used to provide.
    * Get users to generate content and contribute to the music catalog.
    * Accept only high-quality content. (HQ MP3/Lossless)
    * Make one inclusive copyright agreement to users from ALL countries.
    * Get some discussion / requests thing going.
    * Get users to DONATE for using a GREAT service.
    I can’t really see any companies, websites or services out there that actually LISTEN to the listeners and show some innovation in this field. Instead, they spend their time finding millions of ways to limit our online experience.
    I live in Israel. I make music and put it online – on iTunes, emusic and other subscription services. One might expect I’d be able to buy my own tracks (or of artists similar to my genre) on iTunes – but I can’t – it doesn’t let me purchase my own tunes from the US iTunes store without a US account…
    Streaming? Since Pandora is not available in Israel, and since lets you play 30 seconds on most tracks, plus other online services are either simply lame or lacking the quantity, quality and availability of tracks – the future of subscription services is grim, indeed. For me, at least.
    Am I missing something?

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