• United States
Senior Editor

Napster launches free, on-demand music player

May 01, 20062 mins

Napster has relaunched the Napster Web site by allowing U.S. customers to listen to music free, the company announced Monday.

The move makes Napster the first digital music service to offer free, legal on-demand music to customers, the company said. Customers who sign up for a free online account with Napster can listen to about 2 million music tracks through a Web-based music player, and customers can listen to each song as many as five times for free.

The advertising-supported Napster Web site also points customers to places they can purchase and download songs or sign up for premium services, the company said. Napster eventually will expand the free service to customers outside the United States.

With the new service Napster is attempting to find a digital music model that satisfies fans, musicians, music labels and copyright holders, Napster Chairman and CEO Chris Gorog said in a press release. With Monday’s announcement the company believes “we have taken a significant step toward achieving this goal,” he added.

Napster on Monday also announced two features, one of which is NapsterLinks, which lets customers add links to free Napster music to e-mail messages, instant messages and Web sites. NapsterLinks are URLs that link to specific songs, albums or artists in the Napster online catalog, and the URLs are created using a free tool, the company said.

Also announced is the Narchive, a public music archive where customers will be encouraged to contribute to an ever-expanding audio and visual dialog of the “people’s history of music,” the company said. Customers will be encouraged to add personal stories, photos and memorabilia about music in personal entries at the Narchive. Using NapsterLinks, they will be able to link to the music and artists they write about.

The Narchive will be available in a beta release soon, Napster said.

Napster also offers monthly subscription plans allowing for music downloads and transfers to portable MP3 players.