Napster Offering Free Streaming of Entire Catalog

A prediction of mine actually came true for once.  David Card has the full run down – stepping up the competition with Rhapsody, Napster is offering free streaming of its entire catalog.  Every song can be listened to 5 times.  You can access the service through the client software, but you can also use their website with a Flash app that works on Linux and Mac. However, the web streams are of lower quality and every three songs there’s a short advertisement.  Another downside: unlike Rhapsody, Napster has apparently not made its subscription service available via its website. (I’m not sure why this would be, given the flash interface should work just fine for that too – but the site still says “PC Only, Windows XP/2000 ….”)

Napster is also imitating Rhapsody’s linking tools with Napster Links and adding some community features called Narchives. What’s more, they have apparently started an affiliate program where they give you a kickback for placing ads and Napster Links that lead to purchases or subscriptions.

Though Napster’s website is still messy and the Flash interface isn’t great, this could be a pretty big deal.  Allowing full streams radically improves the try-before-you-buy, music discovery experience.  It also will greatly enhance peer recommendations. Want to tell your friends about the great band that’s coming to town?  How about music blogging?  Napster Links can help you to introduce others to music.

But Napster has made a big mistake by not allowing Mac and Linux subscribers – they can’t convert those users from the free streamers to paying customers.