Napster’s Back…

So Napster isreturning to a screen near you….except it’s not. You can put a Mercedes Badge on a Fiat, but it is still a Fiat underneath. That’s not to take anything away from Roxio’s Naspter service – which certainly aims to innovate – but it quite simply isn’t the Napster of old, and there are a lot of music fans out there who will expect it to be.

Undoubtedly the Napster brand was the core asset that Roxio bought. Though Kazaa is arguably a bigger and more contemporary brand Napster is a better one. Napster benefited from the James Dean effect: it lived young and fast, died young and beautiful, and is remembered fondly, whereas Kazaa has become tainted by spyware and reeks of the cynical revenue generation exploits of Sharman Networks.

The Roxio Napster service will obviously not be able to compete with the breadth and depth of catalogue of the original file sharing network, nor will it be able to offer the same freedom of portability and burnability. It is improbable that it will develop the sort of market dominance in the legitimate sector that the old Napster had in the P-toP domain, but then that is simply not how the online music market will evolve. The there are so many new entrants into the market and it will sustain many of them, in the same way the high street plays host to many different music retailers.

As I described in one of my reports, different types of services will prosper by targeting distinct consumer segments. The new Napster certainly looks like it will offer something different and distinct: the service is essentially utilises the “celestial jukebox” concept, streaming music from remote servers for consumption on the PC. Ironically for Roxio, consumers have to pay a premium to transfer music onto devices or CD. The secret of its success will of course lie in the nature of the licenses it has been granted from the majors and the degree of portability that is allowed across allow of the catalogue. If it is simply a revision of press play then it will struggle to achieve the success it craves.

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