The former peer-to-peer file stealing sharing service turned legit is changing hands once again. After filing for bankruptcy nearly a decade ago, Napster's assets were picked up by Roxio for $5.3 million in cash and stock in 2002. In 2008, Best Buy spent $121 million acquiring the music subscription service, which by then had more 700,000 subscribers. Best Buy was never able to do much with Napster, and now Rhapsody will take over operations.
Have you been in a coma for nearly the past year? If so, then you probably haven't subjected yourself to Chat Roulette, which is...um, a sort of social networking site if being particularly generous with our description. It's really an online site where you go to hook up with random strangers for webcam-based chat, and what could possibly go wrong, right?
If you've never been to Chatrourellete.com (NSFW), it should take you all but 10 seconds to figure out the answer to that question (Spoiler: it involves dudes waving around their manhood). That's not to say there isn't potential for Chat Roulette to be something more, and with more than a million people a day visiting the site, investors have begun to take notice. But for advertisers to jump on board, somebody needs to clean things up.
That somebody is Shawn Fanning, who you might recognize as the founder of Napster. Chat Roulette founder Andrey Ternovskiy has been in informal discussions with Fanning on ways to change the direction of Chat Roulette. One solution being yanked around is adding software designed to scan video to determine whether or not a user is exposing himself.
"I'm fascinated by Chat Roulette and Andrey," Fanning told TechCrunch. "I want to help him any way I can."
Following HP's lead, who announced last week it was offering buyers of new laptops across Asia the opportunity to get 1,000 free music tracks, Dell has partnered with Napster with a deal it believes is even better. Selected laptop and desktop customers will be given a year of free Napster service.
By going the subscription route, customers who purchase a qualified PC will have access to 8 million music tracks, 60 DRM-free tracks to download and keep, the ability to stream online from any PC, and unlimited downloads on up to 3 PCs.
Systems eligible for the free 12-month subscription will come from Dell's Studio and Inspiron lines, including some systems sold through Best Buy in the U.S.
Advertising and availability for the new promotion is expected to take place sometime by the end of October.
Dell's hookup with Napster appears to be even sweeter than originally reported. After catching wind of our post, Jennifer Wilbur, a rep for Napster, told us the following:
In the report, you say "and unlimited downloads on up to 3 PCs." This is inaccurate. The MP3s are completely unrestricted, so not restricted to 3 PCs. Also, the streaming service can be accessed from any machine using the subscribers username and password.
Jennifer Wilbur Principal Rockstar Communications [for Napster]
Following in the footsteps of Napster, KaZaA has shed its shady past as an illicit download P2P vehicle and is making a legit comeback. The relaunched site is now a full fledged music service offering unlimited streams and downloads for $19.98 per month.
Under the new business model, subscribers can consume as many tracks as they want from both major and independent artists, so long as you're a U.S. resident with a Windows-based PC. Also similar to Napster, a subscription is good for up to three authorized PCs, however a major downside is the lack of portable media player support.
A review of the service is already up over at Arstechnia, who seemed generally underwhelmed with KaZaA's new identity
"The service tries to differentiate itself by allowing users to pay for the subscription either with a credit card or attached to their monthly cell phone bills, but this level of choice is comparable to being able to use either cash or credit card at the gas pump in terms of excitement," notes Arstechnica.
KaZaA offers a free 7 day trial if you want to see for yourself how the service compares. You can check it out here.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of the much maligned grandaddy of peer-to-peer music piracy, Napster, and the eighth of the music industry’s first terrible move.
Napster founder Shawn Fanning didn’t exactly invent music file sharing—before Napster, Mac people had Hotline, which, being Mac software, presumably had better fonts, a gorgeous interface, and seven rabid users. What made Napster more than piracy was its many millions of users and billions of downloads. Napster had a population of music fans communicating their preferences and acting as free distributors and archivists, as well as consumers.
It wasn’t the 72,000 copies of Enter Sandman that made Napster interesting. It was finding out that someone out there had digitized their beloved recording of the TV musical version of Around the World with Nellie Bly—some crazy wonderful someone. It’s amazing that Napster didn’t result in more marriages based on hopelessly obscure tastes. It was the only moment when we could tell what bits of 20th century music people care about today, or had a chance to let tomorrow care about them too.
Let the streaming music wars begin. Just last week Microsoft went on the offensive and attacked Apple's iTunes service over its pricing model compared to the Zune Pass unlimited subscription service, which serves up all-you-can-listen-to tunes plus 10 free tracks for $14.99/month. Looking to leapfrog ahead of them both, Napster, now a Best Buy commodity, is planning to relaunch its subscription music service with a $5 deal that includes 5 free tracks every month.
"There's no need to settle for 30-second clips to decide if you want to buy a song," said Chris Gorog, CEO of Napster. "For five bucks now you can have access to our entire music catalog and get five MP3s to add to your permanent collection."
The new pricing model, which goes into effect tonight, could put Napster in contention with more popular music services and put the one-time P2P pioneer back on top. Napster's catalog sits at over 7 million strong and includes more than 60 commercial-free radio stations, which seems like an obscene amount of content for the same price as a Subway footlong.
Anyone plan on giving Napster a second look? Hit the jump and sound off.
Youtube houses arguably one of the largest music-video collections on the internet, which even features some hard-to-find musical gems. Dan Nelson, a 15-year-old developer, has built an iTunes-esque, free-music service that streams Youtube music to the user’s desktop. His downloadable music player is called Muziic.
Muziic can be considered the notional progeny of Youtube and iTunes: it delivers free music available on Youtube in a seamless manner one associates with iTunes. But its adolescent creator is yet to secure Google’s endorsement.
Google’s gripe may emanate from the fact that there is no mechanism in Muziic to display the advertisements that usually accompany Youtube videos. So Muziic is effectively depriving Google of ads revenue that is lawfully its due. Having used Muziic, this author can vouch for its utility. But will it be music to Google’s ears?
The online music industry has always been a touchy one, but today the world came a step closer to ending online royalty disputes. An agreement that’s being called a “breakthrough that will facilitate new ways to offer music to consumers online,” songwriters, music publishers, record labels and digital music websites have concluded a seven year dispute over mechanical royalties and limited music downloads.
Mechanical royalties are the fees paid to songwriters, composers and publishers of music, not the person that only preformed it or the record company that produced the recording. Limited music downloads are downloads with restrictions attached, such as the model used by Napster To Go. iTunes, however isn’t considered limited use because you can listen to your songs as often as you want, without a monthly fee.
As landmark as this settlement is, it still leaves a big hole on the controversial topic of Internet radio. Sites such as Pandora and Live365 remain in a high-stakes standoff with SoundExchange, the company in charge of collecting the fees for artists and record companies. The reason that sites such as these were left out from the normal Internet radio agreement is because they allow users to select the music that they want to listen to, as opposed to simply listening to a pre-determined stream of songs.
And so the Napster saga continues (or, depending on your perspective, it comes to an end). The former peer-to-peer pioneer gone legit music service managed to avoid being gobbled up by an ice cream store owner, but the temptation to sell ultimately proved too strong for investors eager to cash in rather than continue to face stiff competition.
According to The Wall Street Journal, electronics retailer Best Buy has agreed to buy Napster for $121 million, which includes $67 million of cash and short-term investments on Napster's books. The acquisition values the digital music service at $2.65 per share, or almost double the closing price on Friday, which sat at $1.36.
"Best Buy intends to use Napster's capabilities and digital subscriber base to reach new customers with an enhanced experience for exploring and selecting music and otehr digital entertainment products over an increasing array of devices," said Best Buy president and COO Brian Dunn.
Napster's chief executive Chris Gorog is expected to remain in his post, along with the company's other senior executives. Best Buy also said it currently has no plans to relocate the music service's Los Angeles headquarters.
Was this a good move for Best Buy? Hit the jump and let us know your thoughts.
At a glance, the previously struggling Napster appears to have bounced back and is now doing well. As outlined in the company's fiscal first quarter financial report, the music service can boast a positive cash flow for the fifth straight quarter with revenue holding steady at about $30 million. According to Napster's brass, the company is making the right move and is in a good position moving forward. But convincing investors of that is another story altogether.
Despite the positive quarterly financial reports, Napster's stock hit an all-time low in mid-July and today is trading at less than half of what it went for one year ago. Subscribers are down 7 percent from last quarter, and a group of impatient investors have initiated a proxy battle to win seats on the board.
"It's kind of damned if you and damned if you don't," Napster chairman and CEO Chris Gorog laments. "The bottom line is, five years ago we were number 2 or 3 in the this industry, and five years later we're still number 2 or 3 in this industry."
Hit the jump to learn why Napster remains stagnant.