Napster Launches U.K. Version

Napster launched in the United Kingdom today. It is the first of the U.S.-based legal online-music services to cross the Atlantic.

Napster launched in the United Kingdom today. It is the first of the U.S.-based legal online-music services to cross the Atlantic.

Napster U.K. went live with more than 500,000 titles, licensed from the five majors and members of U.K. independent label trade body AIM.

Within the next 30 days, the company expects to add 200,000 songs, making it the biggest legal online-music catalog available through a single service, according to Chris Gorog, CEO of Napster and its parent company Roxio.

"This is high quality majors and indie stuff. This isn't odds and sods," Gorog tells

He says all the necessary rights deals with the labels, publishers and the MCPS-PRS royalties collection society fell in place just in time for the launch.

But, in response to claims that Europe is a difficult market to enter, he admits there had been challenges. "The fact is that we did put some pressure on everyone because nothing gets done without a deadline," Gorog says. "By providing a deadline, we got everyone pulling in the same direction."

Of the 700,000 tracks that will roll out on Napster, Gorog estimates that about 75% are the same as those on original Napster 2.0 in the United States.

In terms of the business and pricing model, Napster is focusing on subscription-based sales. For £9.95 ($17.61) a month, subscribers can download unlimited tracks on up to three PCs. The tracks expire if payment is not maintained.

If subscribers choose to burn songs to CDs, they pay £0.99 ($1.75) per track; albums are priced from £9.95 ($17.30). For multiple track purchase, costs of £0.88 ($1.56) apply.

The 'Napster Light' service allows users to buy a la carte downloads to burn to CD or shift to portable players. Tracks are priced at £1.09 ($1.93) each, while entire albums starting at £9.95 ($17.30).

To promote the launch, Napster U.K. is offering a free seven-day trial to its subscription service.

As previously reported, Napster has also linked up with the Dixons Group, one of Europe's biggest consumer electronics goods retailer, for a promotional campaign starting May 21.

The arrival in Britain of a new, legitimate download service was welcomed by the IFPI.

"Napster's launch of a legitimate online service in the U.K. is great news for the music industry and music fans," says Jay Berman, chairman/CEO of international music trade body IFPI. "This is the latest evidence that our industry's Internet strategy is turning the corner, and we look forward to more legitimate online services being launched across Europe."

Competition from existing online music retailers has intensified since Napster's announcement. Retailer clients of OD2, the online-music service provider, have since launched a campaign offering £20 ($35) worth of music for free, while Wippit issued the following statement: "Wippit will continue to offer single downloads from £0.29 ($0.51) and our famous Unlimited Download Subscription Service for £50 ($88.50) a year or £4.99 ($8.83) a month. We welcome Napster to the U.K. market, coz it just makes Wippit look even better."