Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Napster -- The Cat is Back With Its 3rd Life

First, Napster -- the revolutionary Internet music sharing site -- was the rogue.  The Napster "cat" symbolized theft to many, and freedom for too many millions of others (i.e., pirates).  Either way, Napster marked the beginning of the end of the music industry as we then knew it.  There was no business model with Napster Part I, because Napster was no real business -- the service simply enabled free P2P file sharing.

But, then, staid technology company Roxio tried to tame the Cat (Napster Part II), turning the company into a legitimate subscription-based music service -- i.e., "all you can eat" music "rental" (not downloads) for a monthly fee.  That worked -- kind of -- but nothing like the new owners had hoped.  Original Napster users were confused -- they wanted their free music back -- "legitimacy" simply didn't make sense to them when they had so many other choices.  So, in a surprising development,  Napster Part II sold to Best Buy last year for $121 million.  (Best Buy?  That's what I thought at the time too.)

Now, Best Buy introduces the Cat's long-anticipated third life -- Napster Part III.  And, Best Buy shakes it up with an entirely new business model -- selling 5 downloads per month, PLUS unlimited music streaming, for $5.  In a sense, the electronic giant's new business model is an homage to both Napster Part I (downloads) and Napster Part II (subscriptions).  And, Best Buy brings the in-store marketing muscle of its "blue shirts" -- i.e., its in-store sales professionals who are trained in special ops (the art of upselling us more than we want through the powers of persuasion).

The Cat's multiple lives live on ... 

(My recommendation?  Check it out.  Music subscriptions really are compelling ... trust me ... I have used them for years.  Give you tremendous power and choice ... legitimately.  And, the new Napster throws in 5 tracks to boot -- that's $1.00 per track (same as iTunes) AND throws in the unlimited streaming essentially for free.)