Napster will enter into the German market before the end of the year. The online music company today (Jan. 22) used the platform of MidemNet to unveil details of its planned pre-Christmas expansion in

Napster will enter into the German market before the end of the year.

The online music company today (Jan. 22) used the platform of MidemNet to unveil details of its planned pre-Christmas expansion into Europe's most populous territory -- a development which will give the company its first foothold in continental Europe. Napster has existing localized services in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

"I think it'll be a perfect entry point for us in Western Europe," Napster chairman/CEO Chris Gorog tells Billboard.biz. "Germany is the No. 1 territory for record sales in Western Europe and it's a fabulous technology market."

Based in Frankfurt, the online music service's offering will be tailored to local tastes. It will aggregate a "substantial" amount of local German content alongside international titles, and its marketing campaign will be driven by strategic multi-media partnerships.

Recently published statistics indicate that the German digital music market has grown ripe in the past 12 months. In its "Digital Piracy Report," the IFPI says sales of digital downloads rose dramatically in Germany last year, with nearly 1 million delivered by the Musicload service in December alone. Napster Germany will be competing in a marketplace which contains more than 20 digital music services, including iTunes Music Store and Sony Connect.

Napster has recruited Musicload executive Thorsten Schliesche to head the German business as GM and VP. Schliesche is recognized as one of the cornerstones to Musicload's success, where until recently he was senior manager for digital shops and music. In his new role, he will report to Napster's L.A.-based senior VP of worldwide business development Larry Linietsky.

A French service will likely follow on the heels of Napster Germany. "We'll get France moving as fast as possible," says Gorog, noting discussions are at a preliminary development stage.