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Monday, December 22 12:01 EST

Reviews: Digital Music Stores: Napster 2.0

By Brian Briggs

iTunes Music Store - Napster - Musicmatch
Rhapsody
- Wal Mart - BuyMusic - EMusic

NapsterWhat does Napster offer?
This is one of the issues with Napster. They offer the most variety of choices, which makes it the most confusing service to understand and explain. Napster sells music downloads for $.99 per song or $9.95 per album though album pricing varies. Napster also has a premium service for $10 per month. The premium service gives you access to stream their programmed radio stations, build your own radio stations from artists you select, download songs to your computer, access to their message boards, and their online music magazine. You are also able to look at other Napster users playlists to see what other people are listening to or to find new music.

What is the deal with downloading songs?
The most confusing part of the service is downloading songs. What this means is that you can download the songs to your computer and listen to them at your leisure. However, when you cancel your subscription to Napster then the licenses to those songs will expire. In addition, not every song in the Napster library is available for download. Some are only available for buy, so you only get a 30-second preview of the song. It also appeared that some songs were only available for download, but not for purchase.

How much does it cost?
Napster costs $.99 per song and $9.95 for albums though album pricing varies. The premium service costs $10 per month.

What rights do I have with the songs?
The songs you buy (not download) you can burn to a CD, transfer to a wma player and listen to on up to three computers.

What about selection?
Napster has over 500,000 songs in their library.

File Type: Songs bought from Napster were available as protected .wma files ripped at 128 k.

What I did?
I subscribed to the Premium service and received five free song purchases. I bought the five songs with my credit. I also downloaded over a hundred songs to listen to on my computer. I listened to the streaming stations.

Songs bought from Napster:

Anthrax and Public Enemy – Bring the Noise
Sinead O’Conner – Mandinka
The Wallflowers – One Headlight
Tears for Fears – Break It Down
Wang Chung – Dance Hall Days

General observations: Napster is available as a stand-alone program, or as a plug-in to Windows Media Player. I used both, but would suggest either using the WMP plug-in for advanced jukebox functionality and skinnable interface, or the stand-alone version with Musicmatch as your jukebox. Napster has gift cards available. Downloading tracks was a good way to check out new music. You can buy songs without being part of the Premium Service. Does not show songs on a search that are not available on the service.

Problems encountered: Needed to contact customer support to get my five free songs.

Who would choose Napster Premium Service?
Napster is a good program for finding new music by using the radio stations or by searching other people’s playlists. Someone who wants to jumpstart their music collection by using the download feature.

Who does not want to use Napster Premium Service?
Someone with a limited budget who wants to buy music. Someone who only wants to buy music. Someone who does not like Windows Media Player. Someone who wants higher quality songs. Someone who wants to find songs that are not on the service.

Store Location: Through Napster's stand-alone program or as a premium service on Windows Media player. Stand-alone program available here.

Screenshots:

Jukebox
Store Home
Beastie Boys Search

Radio

Next: Musicmatch

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