Napster Restarts

Napster Restarts – Company Business and Marketing

Ronna Abramson

How far has Napster fallen? The song-swapping service likes to boast that its software has been downloaded more than 60 million times, making it one of the most ubiquitous platforms online. Not anymore.

Last week the Redwood City, Calif., company pulled the plug on all the old versions of its software, cutting off its huge audience and asking it to download a new Napster. The updated software — version 2.0, beta 10.3 for those keeping score — complies more rigorously than ever with a court ruling designed to block Napster users from pirating copyrighted music.

In other words, the beleaguered company is starting almost from scratch in its transition to a paid-subscription service. Napster’s corporate partner, Bertelsmann, has been pushing for a July 1 launch for the new service — a date Napster execs never publicly endorsed. No wonder: It came and went with no sign of the rollout. Now at least one insider at Bertelsmann is saying it could be October before the new Napster sees the light of day. Redwood City execs insist they’ll launch by summer’s end.

In any case, the company is moving ahead. Last week founder Shawn Fanning was in London to announce a distribution deal with more than 150 record companies represented by the Association of Independent Music, a powerful group of about 500 U.K.-based labels (and the source of some of the biggest British hits last year).

Add that to the deal with the three major labels behind MusicNet and the potential of the new Napster starts to come into focus.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Standard Media International

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group