Napster Review - Napster Lite - Napster To Go

Most people recall Napster as the company at the center of a controversial court case in which the Recording Industry Association of America sued the file sharing service for copyright violation. The RIAA won, and Napster was shut down, but it has since been reincarnated as a commercial service that has the full blessing of the music industry.

In its current form, Napster is a music subscription service that allows users to download an unlimited number of songs for a set monthly fee. There are currently (May 2006) three Napster services:

  • Napster Lite - A simple online music store that sells tracks for 99 cents each
  • Napster
  • Napster To Go.

Napster

The regular Napster service is available at $9.95 per month. For this price, users can listen to nearly all of the complete Napster lineup of more than 1 million songs. Music can be downloaded or streamed from a choice of over 50 commercial free radio stations. You can also create your own custom radio stations that play music from specified artists or genres.

However, as good as it sounds, there is one big catch that not everybody will be aware of. All of the music that you download from Napster is only accessible for as long as you are a paid member. If you let your membership lapse, all of that music will be gone!. The reality of Napster is that it is a service which rents music rather than sells it.

Of course, part of Napster is a music store where you can buy songs for 80 cents to 99 cents each. Purchased songs can be burnt to CD or transferred to a portable mp3 player. That may seem like a good deal compared to the $15 or so for a commercial CD, but remember, Napster songs are in WMA format which are compressed audio files that do not have the same audio quality as CDs.

On the plus side - for $9.95 you get to check out a tremendous amount of music - bands and genres that you might not otherwise be exposed to. You can read reviews by other Napster users and browse Billboard charts from the past 50 years.

Napster To Go

If you have a portable MP3 player, you can subscribe to Napster To Go for $14.95 a month for the privilege of transferring an unlimited number of songs to your portable device. Same catch, though, as with the regular Napster service in as much that as soon as you stop paying your monthly fee all that music becomes inaccessible. Napster To Go includes all the features of the regular Napster service, so you can download songs to your computer or your MP3 player and listen to streaming audio.

There is a good selection of MP3 players that are supported by Napster To Go including popular models from Creative, Dell, iriver and Rio. However, the Apple iPod does not support Napster To Go, which is hardly suprising considering that Apple own and operate the rival iTunes Music Store.

Some of the songs in Napster's catalog are only available for purchase, and some major names such as the Beatles and Led Zeppelin are not available at all. For those interested in exploring new music, however, Napster offers good service.