It’s back to the future for Napster, which announced Monday that it is inaugurating a free ad-supported online music service.While Napster developed early free Web music services in 1999 only to be forced to drop them, the new Napster.com destination is different: each song played may only be listened to five times. After that, users are asked to pay $9.95 to $14.95 a month for different options to use the service.
“With all the progress the digital music industry has made over the past few years, a digital music model that fully satisfies everyone – fans, artists, labels and rights holders – has yet to surface,” said Chris Garog, Napster’s chairman and CEO, in a statement. “We believe we have taken a significant step toward achieving this goal and are grateful for the cooperative support of the record industry in making this a reality.”
Napster and other online music providers have been scrambling to find successful formulas to compete with Apple’s dominant iTunes Web music service, which market research studies estimate has some three-quarters market share of online music services.