Message to Napster: Put Up or Shut Up

by Alan Graham

Chris Gorog, chairperson of the playa in the player/music market Roxio, is telling music execs to stay off the Apple platform.

Attention Music Execs: you should listen to Gorog.

You see Gorog is looking out for you. He wants you to back a winner and since the new and improved Napster (music without the stealing) is compatible with two thirds of the hundreds of lousy mobile devices available...working with Apple is a waste of your time.

Here's where his argument becomes excrement. Um...anyone see any problem at all with labels providing both Windows vendors & the Apple store with digital content? It works like this:

1. Music Labels provide digital audio files to vendors.

2. Vendors post content for sale on their platform.

3. Vendors cut checks to labels.

4. *Labels make donations to the RIAA.

So uh...where is the drawback with staying on the Apple platform? Why would the labels care which platform their music is long as the money continues to flow?

So I'm asking you right here, Mr. Gorog...let's say Apple sells $30+ million in music a year. Now, I can see how their success hurts you, but how does this hurt the labels? You can email me and I'll post your response, unedited.

Personally, I would be more concerned with your competitors on the Windows platform, than worrying about which platform the labels choose. You've got bigger problems from Wal*Mart & Microsoft.



"Napster's Gorog claimed that its $9.95 monthly subscription service for unlimited downloads will become the favourite payment method..."

It isn't real downloads, but streaming**. You still have to pay $.99 if you want to keep the songs. Yeah, there is nothing I like better than leasing my music. Where is the value add in this? I can't take it with me, plus I have thousands of free Internet radio stations at my fingertips. Many of my favorites only cost me an optional small donation each year. For $9.95 a month, you'd be better off investing in XM Radio or Sirius.

And if you record execs really want a heads up on how viable a model streaming can record streamed audio. I mean if you are gonna hammer on Apple for having sharing in iTunes, you should at least show some concern over Napster's streaming. Each streamed song is coming out of your retirement benefits.

*Not all labels support the RIAA.

**Although it isn't completely clear to me, it looks like you may be able to download as many tracks as you like for $9.95, but in order to burn them, or relocate them, you must buy them...would appreciate if someone could clarify for me. Can you put these on a player for $9.95 a month or are they locked to your computer?

Please...somebody say something sensible.


2004-01-29 09:03:48
I agree
If someone could clear something up for me, I'd be much obliged...this story is reminding me of simpler times that have suddenly become much more complicated.

I walk into Best Buy. I find a CD I would like to purchase. I plunk down my hard-earned $14 (!!!) (*grumble*highway-robbery*grumble*) and walk out a "satisfied" customer.

Exactly just what did I buy?

Do I now OWN that compact disc? Am I able to do whatever I want with it? Can I play frisbee with the damn thing? Can I listen to it in my car? On my PC? Can I put it in my DVD Player and listen to it through my TV? Can I rip MP3s off it and throw it onto my $250 iPod?

OR did I just spend $14 to *borrow* something from the RIAA / artist? Does that $14 get me something akin to a Windows CAL? I mean, what is that CD?

I guess I just don't understand why Fair Use Rights went out the window (no pun intended).

And for the record, I'm one of the millions of other whakos who have bought more CDs (and *not* bought some CDs) because I was able to download and preview and album before hand.

Sorry for the pseudo-off-topic post...just wondering if someone has an answer for me.


2004-01-29 10:20:58
Smell the Fertilizer
You absolutely crack me up.

Napster's Gorog seems desperate. Let's hope the music industry and consumers smell the excrement.


2004-01-29 10:50:10

Alan's four steps:

1. Music Labels provide digital audio files to vendors.

2. Vendors post content for sale on their platform.

3. Vendors cut checks to labels.

4. Labels make donations to the RIAA.

It will really get interesting for the RIAA it becomes these four steps:
1. Artists provide digital audio files to vendors.
2. Vendors post content for sale on their platform.
3. Vendors cut checks to artists.
4. Artists ignore the RIAA.

2004-01-29 10:52:16
(Note to self, never enter HTML by hand)
2004-01-29 23:35:38
Artist donations
I buy used CDs whenever possible. If artists would make it easy to donate, I'd give a little for each used CD.

Some artists sign away rights to .com in the contract.

Artist. I hate the "A" word in all its forms. What does it mean? We're better off without it.

2004-01-30 03:31:31
I agree
yes, you can do with that CD whatever you want as long as you do not:
a) give others copies of the CD and its content (this does include putting it under a photocopier and making paper copies, though the record labels won't mind much until someone finds a way to play those paper copies in a CD player or elsewhere).
b) play the music in public including radio, restaurants, etc. (for this an additional fee is required, especially if it's commercial use).

so yes, you are allowed to rip it and listen on your iPod. But if you ever decide to throw away, sell or give away the CD your right to those mp3s (and all other versions of the content of the CD you created) automatically expires.

It's the same as it is with books. You may make a copy of a page to mark up or take with you but you cannot make a copy of the book then give away or sell the book and keep the copy.

2004-01-30 06:36:59
the "Premium Service"
The $9.95 subscription gets you what is called a Premium Subscription. What this means is that you get unlimited streaming and unlimited tethered downloads. This does not mean that you have access to every song in the Napster library, some are there as "Buy Only" songs. These songs have the standard 30-second sample, but that is all you get.

The streaming service is pretty simple. It is not run like a standard radio internet stream, but as a streaming on demand service. This makes it a little bit like sharing your iTunes library and letting people pick what songs they want to hear without actually copying them to their machine. This will only work after you have logged into the Napster service.

The tethered downloads, however, are a little more difficult. These songs reside on your computer and are authorized to play for the life of your subscription, usually one month. This means that the Napster application has to update the songs every month for as long as you are a member. They build in some buffer so that if you don't log in to Napster for a couple days after your subscription would have ended, the songs still play. This is all done in the background while the user is logged into Napster so there is no significant annoyance factor.

To answer your question about MP3 players ... Yes. However, you have to buy the Samsung Napster player. I have not seen this work yet, but that is the claim.

Because of the system architecture for streaming and tethered downloads, Napster gives the labels money every time someone streams a song, downloads a song or buys a song.

I must put in a disclaimer that none of this information is completely official. I sat in on a rather lengthy demo of Napster before its release here at Penn State, and a lot of these details were covered there.

Regarding the overall experience of Napster. It is a well thought out interface that overs a lot for $9.95. However, I really hate that I can't use it natively on my Powerbook. If Napster finds a way to solve this problem, then I think it could give iTunes a run for it's money.

2004-01-30 06:45:14
the "Premium Service"
It kinda sounds like a pain in the a$$ to me. And as far as the possibility of the subscription letting you put the songs on your Napster branded player...well that sounds like Napster is pulling the wool over people's eyes. Here they are touting the 2/3 compatibility factor...but to use this service you can only use their model.

Oh yeah...and it is really ugly.

2004-01-30 09:51:25
the 2/3 compatibility factor
This seems like the biggest issue to me. 2/3 of the players _might_ support WMA, but 2/3 of the players do not support the encrypted WMA format. In fact, very few do. So if they are talking about music you rip yourself, then sure there are more players available. If you are talking about music downloads, then the most abundant player is the iPod.
2004-01-30 11:09:53
the "Premium Service"
I should make a clarification. The Samsung player must be used if you don't want to fully purchase the song. If you pay your $.99 for a song then I believe it will work on any WMA player ... but I don't have experience with it.