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Your 'fancy' Napster bashing bites

We dream of disappearing music

Letters Our recent column challenging Napster's new To Go music rental service triggered an unusual volume of letters. The vulture flock appears to be divided where Napster is concerned with many saying $14.95 per month for tethered downloads sounds pretty good and others insisting that Apple's per song model will win the online music wars.

Many of you confused our anti-Napster stance as an all out vote of confidence for Apple and iTunes. Not true. Apple certainly has the better of the two business models at the moment, but neither are all that sound in the long run. Apple, Napster and Real are all abused by the online distribution pricing set up by the major record labels. These tech companies only get a few pennies per song from the labels - barely enough to break even.

For Apple, it doesn't really matter whether or not online music sales make business sense. It can pull in billions from the iPod. For Napster, however, the future is more bleak unless the labels agree to drastic pricing changes. But that's our opinion. Here's yours.

That article was pathetic, an opinion of an uneducated writer who obviously cherishes iTunes for what it is worth.

I would give Napster To Go a bit more credit. I notice this article is an opinion...well, a true farce of one, at best. This is like comparing Mac to Windows...and every other competing technology. Mac runs their apps and a bunch of other ugly applications that are not set up properly to take advantage of Mac's GUI. Windows is the opposite. It is the standard.

Now go write something better with your time, on your "fancy" iBook while you blare John Mayer over your iPod. Just because you want to own music and pay hundreds of dollars to fill your iPod, that is fine with me. Oh, another thing - not everyone has an excessive amount of MP3's or CD's.

This article is garbage, representing a true basher of any technology that rebels with what Apple says is great. Maybe Apple would be used more than Linux if it was actually A. effective, B. fast, C. useable. There is a reason Mac isn't a screaming success, and it sure as hell doesn't help when you fill your products with garbage ads and bogus prices.

Check your facts.

Mike Martel

For the record, Mike, your reporter doesn't own an iPod, but he does have a life-size poster of John Mayer. Check your facts.

I think Napster To Go is just a step along the way to the entertainment industry's ultimate dream: They will have a vast library of material that can be preserved indefinitely, and they'll sell the same stuff to us and our children over and over and over again.

The real killer comes a few decades down the road: When this library gets big enough, the industry will have no further need of artists, actors, or anything else that is currrently needed to produce new material. They'll have enough stuff on file to entertain the average human for a lifetime, and it'll all be locked away behind DRM so it can be resold an infinite number of times. Each new would-be artist will have to compete with good-as-new renditions of the best of all past artists' performances, and fewer will make the grade each year. Eventually, it will no longer be worth the industry's trouble to invest in new materiaL.

The ultimate irony is that copyright was established to encourage the production of new material, but extreme enforcement of copyright is what will eventually end artistic effort.

Jude Suszko

I couldn't agree more with your article, Ashlee. Mondo-flop-o-rama. The Napster dudes should have read High Fidelity (the novel) before investing mega millions in this Spruce Goose! They did name it right, though: "To Go" and it will...right in the toilet.

Once again, the rest of the world makes pathetic attempts to match the true vision of Apple and fails.

Jim Gibson

you dipshit

unlimited downloads is EXACTLY what i want

i dont mind paying $10-$15/month for unlimited music.

it is progress. give people the choice to do their own shit

Aaron Kempf

ashlee there's a GIANT huge hole in online music.. especially the services where you can play as much music as you want for a fee.. you simply download a capture utililty - such as 'wiretap' a small free program that will make a file out of whatever data that is intended for the sound card - regardless of the source. So you can copy all the songs you want in the library usually in the free trial period.

This has never been mentioned in any publication, it's just the elephant in the living room for online music.


I enjoyed reading your article about Napster flopping, but I think it will be attractive to some people, including myself. I've been a subscriber to's "Rhapsody" service for the past couple of years, and I think a subscription based service has an advantage that iTunes doesn't.

Basically, I can listen to a wide variety of music that I wouldn't normally pay to listen to. I don't have to worry about wasting 99 cents if a particular song is crap, I can just download and listen to something else. When I listen to music I'm in front of a computer, either at home or at work, which is probably why a subscription service works well for me. Although I do listen to CDs in my car, I don't have a way to plug in a portable device...I suppose I could create an actual audio CD with iTunes, but having that many CDs around gets kind of tedious (the CD player isn't MP3 compatible either).

Admittedly, that will change when I get a new car (I image a lot of new cars have a way to plug in a portable media player these days, or soon will), but even then I could see using a subscription based service with a portable media player. So I don't think Napster will be a complete flop

Brian Kolacy

You do realize there are work-arounds to this system, right? I admit, you won't see me dishing out $15 a month to download music (I even use iTunes). Once you burn the music to a cd (and I am assuming you still can with this service, forgive me if this is not the case), then all you have to do is import it back and voila, you have DRM-free music. This is what I do with my iTunes AAC-protected junk. I burn it, import it back (as MP3) so I can make MP3 cd's with it. Sure, you're out a couple of cd's, but what is that? Ten cents per cd?

I love it when these companies announce their "copy-protection" plans. They (and everyone who's knowledgable enough to know what a .torrent is) know it's bullshit when they say there's a five time burn limit per song.


Jeremy Cook

Or.....the subscriber can use napster exactly like itunes, pay 99 cents a song, have his music play on a myriad of other devices other than the ipod, all the while saving $50 on the mp3 player. Why is it ipod people feel the need to slam every other device that isn't an ipod? It's like trying to make yourself more beautiful by calling everyone else ugly.

The apple people doth protest too much, methinks.

Scott Newman

Here is something to add to the ridiculous scheme:

Suppose some bloke is bent on getting his money's worth and downloading 10,000 tunes. Suppose it take him 3 minutes on average per tune to search for, select, and download each tune. It will take him two months, 8 hours a day, every day to do this. Let's be practical and suppose it take he will spend one hour a day - that's a year an a half. The fellow needs time to work and listen to the stuff he downloads too.


I agree with your analysis, but have something to add:

I can see renting music. That's what you do when you use a jukebox. But it's worth considering the cost: I don't have to buy or rent the jukebox, and it's just twenty-five cents per song.

How much should a music rental service cost? Assuming that I weren't constricted with respect to hardware (I could buy any player I liked, not just the one that came with their DRM implementation) or software (e.g., one particular OS), and if the music library were good, I think I'd pay at most three dollars per month for access to the library. At most. That price seems fair, considering that I'm paying for the hardware and the label's distribution costs per song are now almost zero.

But if I have to use particular hardware and software, then even that cost is preposterous. They should pay *us*. That would be a much more tenable model: when you buy the particular kind of player with the particular kind of DRM, they give you three years of free access to the library. After the three years, perhaps a $1 per month subscription would be fair.

Alternatively, they could charge more, but supply the player for free. If you hate the service or the player, send it back with no penalty. That seems reasonable.

But as you point out, in their current plans, one is paying quite a lot of money for what is essentially nothing.

Paul Workman

I see a great use for a Napster service - download all the music you can. The DRM will be broken. If it's not, use an audio hijack program to re-rip the music without DRM. If you can't get that right, use an optical-out connection from your soundcard. If you don't have one, simply loop a minijack cable between your line-out and line-in and you'll have decent quality audio with no DRM.

Don't forget how long people were satisfied with mono radio, or analog tapes, or recordings of FM music shows onto tape..... the pristine audio quality is not that important, or people wouldn't listen to compressed music at all. Why keep subscribing if I can rerip all the music and hang onto it forever?

Tim Gregory

Great column in making it plain, simple & straightforward - you hit the nail on the head on why it will NOT be a big hit.

In addition, they also ask you to put in a lot of time for something you don't own, right? It's one thing to create a playlist of songs you own but honestly, how many people are going to expend the energy and time to cull through thousands of songs?

Even in itunes which is set up nice and easy, I presume most people get on, maybe look at the first page to see what's new and then maybe do a search, buy a couple tracks or albums and leave - who is honestly going to spend hundreds of hours culling through artists, albums and whatever to cull hundreds/thousands of tracks - as you point are "lost" if you go on vacation or your credit card expires?

The only person who might sign up for this is someone who intends to record the stream (making it DRM free) but not only do they have all the free illegal places to grab tracks, they should be done in a month so I'll bet the few people they get to isgn up for this thing will be quitting as soon as they recorded the streams of a couple hundred CD's - then quit to sign to sign up again in two months for new music.

I also heard that 4 of the 5 Pepsi Super Bowl spots will be for the itunes promotions so Napsters 1 $2.3 million spot will be lost pretty quickly - what message is going to resonant better? Listen to music for $14.95 a month or buy a Pepsi, win a free iPod song?

Anyway, thanks for doing the math and making it nice and clear why it's idiotic.

J. Belkin

Nice takes. I've already run down the pro's and con's as you amply laid out, and even ran a quick exercise in how many subscribers - that keep their subscriptions - Napster would have to have in order to simply break even with this one year marketing venture - Napster will need between 500k - 1 million subscribers to break even in the first year alone. Shut off the big marketing from there on out and they can make some money. But then without any huge advertising, this model is sure to die off. After all, sheep need constant reminding...

I can only guess that MicroSoft will try to salvage this thing when it is all said and done, by throwing more money into the marketing furnace.

Either way they all lose because Micro$oft, along with their Napster-like pimps, bricked on the main point - Everyone wants an iPod.


The only money to be made is in the hardware - how fucking stupid are you?

The music market has benn getting turned on it's head for the past 5 years, now we are seeing the reality of businesses and consumers getting to grips with technology.

Your argument doesn't stand up and to come out with such a sweeping statement is poor journalism - or do you just do this in your spare time?

One might suggest that you understand your market a little and stop sucking apple's cock - honestly......get a new job.


Let's call this latest Napster 'Service' for what it is. It's the juke box model imported into your home. Drop your money in the juke box and, after it's over, all you have is fond memories.

Jerry Dreisewerd

I have to agree with you. The market for renting entertainment is poor. Almost nobody has cable TV for example. And almost nobody ever goes to a movie theatre and rents a single play of a movie.


Great point, Bruce. ®

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