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Napster launches DRM-free MP3 store

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By Charles Starrett

Contributing Editor
Published: Tuesday, May 20, 2008
News Categories: Digital Media

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Napster has launched the world’s biggest DRM-free MP3 download store with a catalog of more than 6 million songs. Most of the songs available on the store sell for $0.99 each, with most albums selling for $9.95. “We’re now moving from under the DRM cloud,” said Chris Gorog, Napster chief executive. “Now consumers can use Napster with any device.” The move makes Napster the latest high-profile DRM-free music download store to have the blessing of the major labels, which Reuters says have been hoping to use the services to lessen Apple’s dominant position in the industry. Despite the success of the download-to-own model, Napster will still support its subscription service, which it believes will grow as people become more aware of it. Said Gorog, “We believe ultimately that consumers will be moving to an unlimited music model.”

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Comments

1

The record labels just love sticking it to Apple, don’t they?  The only DRM-free music that the iTunes Store is able to offer is from EMI and independent labels.

Posted by Galley in Greenville, SC on May 20, 2008 at 7:21 AM (PDT)

2

The irony of all of this is that it’s not likely to have nearly as big of an impact as might be expected.

There have been legal DRM-free alternatives to the iTunes Store for years in the form of physical CDs, and of course the less legal DRM-free alternatives in the form of P2P sites. 

People who have traditionally demanded high quality DRM-free music probably weren’t heavy iTunes Store customers to begin with, so while the Napster and Amazon services are likely to attract new customers from other sources, I’m not sure they’re going to take very many away from iTunes.

The average iTunes Store customer either isn’t overly concerned about DRM (in the very least is willing to trade it off for the convenience factor), or they don’t really understand what DRM is.  Either way, for these types of users the advent of these DRM-free services isn’t going to make much difference.

The subscription model and pricing model might have more of an impact (Amazon is selling some tracks for $0.89, for instance), but is that enough to make the average iTunes Store customer change their buying habits?

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on May 20, 2008 at 8:37 AM (PDT)

3

I was under the impression that the DRM is there because the labels want it not Apple.

And aren’t the prices on iTunes partially dictated by the labels too?

Personally I think its better to get a hard copy, rip at 256 VBR with something that uses LAME then store the original as a backup.

But what do I know, I’m just a music lover

Greg

Posted by Greg on May 20, 2008 at 1:17 PM (PDT)

4

Correct, and that’s rather the point…  The labels are willing to give DRM-free music to Apple’s competitors in the hope that it will topple the iTunes Store’s dominant position.

The assumption is that most people would rather have DRM-free music than music with DRM, and therefore by ensuring that all of Apple’s competitors are able to offer better-quality, DRM-free music, Apple will lose its dominant position in the online music industry and the recording industry will therefore regain control.

IMHO, this inexpensive, higher-quality DRM-free music is most definitely not an altruistic move on the part of the recording industry—it’s merely a desperate attempt to topple the iTunes Store’s dominant position by offering more attractive alternatives.  Since the largest DAP consumer base out there is made up of iPods, which will only play either Apple’s FairPlay DRM or NO DRM, the labels really have no choice but to provide their music without DRM.

Of course, it’s a nice benefit for the consumer in the meantime, but I can’t help but wonder if the DRM-free model really fits into the RIAA’s long-term agenda….

Posted by Jesse Hollington in Toronto on May 20, 2008 at 3:21 PM (PDT)

5

You make some good points Jesse.

I have friends at work who have brought thousands of pounds worth of music from iTunes between them and have no idea of the restrictions attached to it. And when the one guys hard drive crashed the panic it caused was unbelievable.

Like you say there always has been DRM free music in various forms available and there always will be no matter what the longer term aims of the music industry are. the sooner they stop treating consumers like idiots the better.

I’d personally like to see prices dropped by at least half of what they are now. I have a fairly fixed amount of money to spend on music as I imagine do most other people. If prices were lower I’d spend the same but it would be spread over more artists. Basically I’d try stuff I wouldn’t have brought otherwise, new talent would be encouraged and rewarded instead of the top 10% of artists making 90% of the sales.

Home taping didn’t kill music, we’re in a new era now so why not embrace the changes and move forward instead of constantly trying to fight a losing battle.

Greg

Posted by Greg on May 21, 2008 at 12:54 AM (PDT)

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