bought Napster for a jaw dropping $121 million, a staggering sum in the free-music era that Napster helped create. The electronics retailer thinks it can do something special with the music service though and now those plans will see the light of day.Last fall, Best Buy
At 5pm PST the new Napster will launch with a $5 monthly subscription plan (down from the old $15 plan) and what you get for that price looks quite good. 5 MP3 downloads per month (screenshot shows free credits for an initial 35 MP3s too), free on-demand streaming of more than 7 million songs and additional download purchases for between 69 cents and $1.29. There's a screenshot of the new interface below and our thoughts on where this new version still falls short.
The New Front Page
That interface looks like what iTunes would have looked like if it was a native Windows app.
The company says it is still working on making mobile a more compelling experience, something we expected to be a big part of the plan when the acquisition happened.
So how does this compare to other music solutions? Here at RWW we use Pandora, Lala and Amazon MP3. Obviously playing particular songs on demand is something Pandora doesn't do, but Pandora nails discovery and the iPhone. It's also free and very easy to use. Lala has a much nicer interface than Napster, it's less expensive but it's also a little confusing. Lala does, however, allow you to listen to new albums all the way through one time for free. Amazon MP3 is just a store, but works well when used in conjunction with Pandora or Lala.
This new Napster seems like a compelling offer but remains an incremental change from everything else the industry offers. Give me a $5 monthly subscription that combines Napster's streaming options with an entire album's worth of monthly MP3 files (5 songs is half an album), the full album previews of Lala, the recommendation and iPhone awesomeness of Pandora and the artist profile quality of Last.fm - and then we're really talking. Though for now, the new Napster seems like a pretty good deal.