LOS ANGELES: Napster has launched a free music service, partially as a marketing initiative to entice new users to sign up for its subscription offering.
The Web-based service allows users to listen to any of Napster's two million tracks up to five times for free. After that period, users can either purchase the track or become a paying subscriber of the monthly service. The service supports Windows, Mac, and Linux software and does not require any software downloads. Debut advertisers include the Navy, Xbox, and the House of Blues.
Dana Harris, Napster VP of corporate communications, said the strategy is that by giving people a free experience, they will learn about the benefits are of the paid service.
"One of the main goals is to get more people into our subscription service, and decreasing our costs per subscriber," Harris said. "Our biggest cost to date has been marketing."
Napster also has breached the new media environment, creating NapsterLinks, which allows users to add links to free music to blogs, e-mails, and instant messenger chats; and the Narchive, an application that allows users, serving as curators of the history of music, to create playlists, photos, and write about the music they love.
"If you got to an indie music blog and someone is telling you about the new Goldfrapp, album, but you can't hear it," it lessens the experience, Harris said. "It gives those people looking for content a great tool; sharing [music] is part of the experience."
She added: "We're going out and bringing people to us, instead of waiting for them to come."
Harris said that while marketing efforts are ongoing, it would focus much of its energy online through viral marketing and some advertisements on Web sites. It would also communicate to the blog community the benefits of NapsterLinks and its affiliate programs.
Harris said that she's been working with reporters to point out that this is merely an evolution of its service offerings.
"You put out a new product with all of these new things, and it looks like a new strategy," Harris said. "The fact of the matter is it is the same strategy, but just a new phase."
"On the business side, we've always believed in the subscription service,"
Harris said that the company is still grappling with a media that love iTunes and a public that is used to buying CDs or ala carte music.
"It's a difficult proposition to communicate to some people, who are used to buying music," Harris said. "Subscriptions take a little more communication."
The company gave the news exclusive to USA Today, which Harris said best served the mix of business and consumer readers it wanted to reach.
"It was important to maximize the amount of media coverage," Harris said, adding that while this was a business proposition, the company really wanted to reach consumers directly.
Napster worked on the launch with AOR Ruder Finn, which Harris said helped plan media strategy and materials.