Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Digital Music Moves & Grooves -- Apple ($.99 to Its Core) & Napster (Spinning a Web)

Apple's iTunes, the 800 pound gorilla in the digital music market with 70% market share, and Napster, the well known brand, announced important moves today to bolster and expand their respective positions.

Apple just reduced all of its DRM-free tracks (i.e., tracks without any copy protection) from the previous $1.29 to $.99, thereby enabling it to do what it previously did so well -- message a single price for all single tracks to consumers. Some see Apple's price move as a response to Amazon's recent launch, in which it priced restriction-free MP3s at $.89-$.99 per track (of course, the Amazon MP3 service also lacks content from several of the major record labels).

Napster, on the other hand, is breaking away from iTunes' software-focused path (where a download of the iTunes player is required) to a Web-based platform that will enable its customers to listen to their music from any computer (without the need for any additional software download). Napster's announcement signifies the company's first major product shift since Chris Allen, formerly head of product development at Musicmatch Inc. and later at Yahoo Music, became COO a few months back. I worked closely with Chris at Musicmatch, and he is a very talented guy -- expect more significant product moves by Napster in the months ahead ...

One final note -- RIP Musicmatch (there no longer is any separate Musicmatch service -- Yahoo Music converted all of us remaining hold-outs to Yahoo Music a few months back, although the Yahoo Music service looks highly similar to the Musicmatch of old, which is a good thing ... trouble is, this morning, the Yahoo Music service appears to be down, as I cannot log into it ...)