Napster Japan, the territory's first subscription-based music download service, launched today (Oct. 3).

Napster Japan, the territory's first subscription-based music download service, launched today (Oct. 3).

Some 1.9 million tracks -- of which international repertoire comprises 90% -- will be available via the Napster Basic service for a monthly subscription fee of ¥1,280 ($10.84), or via the Napster to Go service, which allows songs to be transferred to up to three portable devices, for ¥1,980 ($16.77) a month.

Users of both services will be able to share files between three PCs.

The Napster a la carte service, meanwhile, will allow individual downloads from a selection of some 1.8 million tracks at a cost of ¥150 ($1.27) per international track and ¥200 ($1.69) per domestic track. Again, 90% of a la carte content is international.

The service uses Windows Media Audio technology, meaning that Napster Japan tracks cannot be played back on Apple's popular iPod device.

All three Napster Japan services will be available via leading Japanese telecom NTT DoCoMo's "i-mode" mobile-based Internet access service. DoCoMo has held a 42% stake in TRJ since November 2005.

"This is a new service for a new era," said TRJ CEO Hiroyuki Fushitani at a press conference in Tokyo to coincide with today's launch. Fushitani is also CEO of Napster Japan, which was established in October 2005 as a joint venture between Tokyo-based Tower Records Japan and U.S.-based Napster.

"Our launch today is our first with an international joint-venture partner," said Napster president Brad Duea at the media gathering. "It would have been much more difficult for us to enter this market without a local partner. We believe Japanese consumers will appreciate our local approach."

The press conference also served as a showcase for 26 Napster-compatible portable digital music players from iRiver, Creative Media, Toshiba and JVC, as well as Fujitsu's F902is, a WMA-compatible handset aimed at DoCoMo/Napster users. DoCoMo says the majority of the handsets it launches in future will be compatible with Napster.

While Napster Japan has licensing deals with 276 record labels, both in Japan and overseas, officials today admitted there is a pressing need to increase the number of domestic tracks offered by the service. "We're talking to many Japanese record companies very seriously about licensing more songs," said Fushitani.

"Our goal is to have 1 million subscribers in Japan in three years, and a total of 1 million downloads in the next six months," said Napster co-COO Paul Greenberg, who is also the company's director of business development, Asia.