New Napster: 'Independence,' 'Innovation'

By Christmas this year, Napster's enigmatic cat logo will again lure consumers into downloading music. But this time it will discard its file-sharing heritage and be entirely legal, with a wealth of n

By Christmas this year, Napster's enigmatic cat logo will again lure consumers into downloading music. But this time it will discard its file-sharing heritage and be entirely legal, with a wealth of new capabilities. Chris Gorog, chairman and CEO of Napster's parent company Roxio, said the completely revamped service will launch under the name Napster 2.0 to emphasize the changes.

Gorog is expected to make the formal announcement of Napster 2.0 in his keynote address at Jupiter's Plug-In conference today (July 28) in New York.

Users will be offered their choice of how to access the company's 500,000 tracks, including buying individual downloads, paying for professionally programmed Internet radio and subscribing to receive unlimited monthly access. These options and others can be mixed to suit personal preferences.

"Napster 2.0 is being built from the ground up to reflect the essence of independence and innovation that the brand is known for," said Gorog. "Consumers want flexibility, and for the first time they will not have to choose between downloads or subscriptions."

He thinks the two different business models are "synergistic," although Napster's marketing strategy was likely to emphasize individual downloads in the beginning, he said. "They'll get involved, and after downloading 10 or 12 songs they'll realize a subscription is far greater value," Gorog added. "That will be especially true once people realize they can drive their home entertainment system with this product."

He said the service also will offer a significant amount of original programming unavailable elsewhere. "We're talking about the best ways of bringing artists into the Napster studios in Los Angeles, having them do video interviews and laying down exclusive live tracks just for our customers."

Additionally, Napster 2.0 will include several features to help in the music discovery process and to build communities. "We are shooting for the greatest music experience on the Web, by bringing together all of the best elements out there into one package," Gorog said.

Pricing has not yet been determined, but he said it would be "not dissimilar" to already available music services.

Licenses are already in place, having been obtained when Roxio purchased music subscription service Pressplay in May for $39.5 million. Gorog said discussions are underway to improve flexibility for the consumer, with the fewest possible usage restrictions, and to ensure that every song could be offered at the same price with the same rules.

"We will not launch until we have commonality across the entire service," Gorog said. "The labels have become much more helpful, and they need to become even more proactive."

The long downtime for the formerly controversial service did not diminish the power of its brand name, according to Gorog, who added that the continuing traffic to the place-holder Web site helped prove his point.

The key to Napster's success, Gorog said, will be that it is "putting the power where it belongs -- in the hands of consumers."