Napster Lets Users Hear Free Music

Napster has relaunched the Napster.com website by allowing U.S. customers to listen to music free, the company announced Monday.

The move makes Napster the first digital music service to offer free and legal on-demand music to customers, the company said. Customers who sign up for a free account on Napster can listen to about 2 million music tracks through a Web-based music player, and customers can listen to each song up to five times for free.

The advertising-supported Napster.com also points customers to places where they can purchase and download songs or sign up for premium services, the company said. Napster will eventually expand the free service to customers outside the United States.

With the new service, Napster is attempting to find a digital music model that satisfies fans, musicians, music labels and copyright holders, Napster Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Chris Gorog said in a press release. With Monday’s announcement, the company believes "we have taken a significant step toward achieving this goal," he added.

Napster on Monday also announced two new features, including NapsterLinks, which allows customers to add links to free Napster music to e-mail messages, instant messages and websites. NapsterLinks are URLs that link to specific songs, albums or artists in the Napster.com catalog, and the URLs are created using a free tool, the company said.

Also announced is the Narchive, a public music archive where customers will be encouraged to contribute to an ever-expanding audio and visual dialog of the "people’s history of music," the company said. Customers will be encouraged to add personal stories, photos and memorabilia about music in personal entries at the Narchive. Using NapsterLinks, they will be able to link to the music and artists they write about.

The Narchive will be available in a beta release soon, Napster said.

Napster also offers monthly subscription plans allowing for music downloads and transfers to portable MP3 players.

Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.

Grant Gross, IDG News Service

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