As promised in January, Napster has relaunched its U.S.-only music download store, sans DRM.
As of today, all of Napsters’s 6 million tracks, comprising music from all four majors, are available to purchase as MP3s, playable on almost any digital music player including iPods. The company claims that it is now “the world’s largest and most comprehensive MP3 store”, beating both Apple’s iTunes Store and Amazon MP3 in terms of the number of songs on sale without copy-protection. For the most part, pricing for downloads will remain at 99 cents for single MP3 tracks and $9.95 for albums, according to the press release.
However, in many respects Napster wants to have its cake and eat it.
While the company’s a la carte download store has finally ditched DRM in line with the rest of the music industry, Napster is still very much in the music subscriptions game, and with it a major peddler of copy-protection. Digital music subscriptions still rely on the use of DRM, since tracks are in effect ‘rented’ rather than owned. Stop paying the monthly subscription fee and your music library disappears.
And Napster isn’t alone. Along with Real’s Rhapsody music subscription service, we’re also seeing the rise of what the BBC’s Darren Waters is calling pseudo-subscription services “in which you buy the right to listen to as much music as you want at the point of purchase of a particular device.”