In a surprise twist of events, I learned over the weekend (from Rafat and David's post) that Napster has tweaked it's consumer offering to evolve into a web-based music service which now operates using any web browser instead of a clunky client download. One major benefit of this approach is that they instantly gain more market share by simultaneously hitting the Mac and Linux camps... A little late to the party since AOL's Music Now and Real's Rhapsody are already doing this - but I predict that Apple will follow this road eventually too...What does this all mean? Well, in a nutshell, the new Napster is now offering FREE listens to any of its 2 million songs - the catch as a non-paying "member" is that you're limited to only 5 listens of any particular song and the streaming tracks are lo-fidelity and highly compressed (they sound like mono too!) Banking on the fact that most people like to try-before-they-buy, Napster is betting on acquiring more subscription customers who will get addicted to the ease of use and vast selection and then eventually spring for the monthly fee. This was a smart move and shows that the management team is paying attention and not afraid of change!
Now if the technology is already there to track usage per song by each "member" - one would think that eventually some of these streaming royalties being paid to the PRO's (i.e., ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) would eventually find their way to the individual artists whose music is being played!?