At the mention of Napster, immediately your mind thinks about illegal downloading, RIAA, lawsuits and possible computer viruses. This is what the past of Napster is filled with. Yet, today, Napster has become one of the top subscription music services.
Most of us listen to music. It seems to be a part of our very make-up. Usually we turn to the radio, more often lately, though, we listen to our MP3 players or CDs. For those who work at computer stations or spend large amounts of time with a computer, music downloaded onto a computer is more mainstream than ever.
The problem with loading music is the fear of lawsuits from the recording industry. In recent years they have decided to crack down on pirated music. This is a real concern as pirating music is stealing. There are, though, many avenues to legally download music. There are many sites, such as iTunes, Wal-Mart, Yahoo, Real, and AOL, to name a few, which sell download of songs at less than one dollar. These songs can then be burned to CD or transferred to an MP3 player. You also have the opportunity to download complete albums, usually at two-thirds the price of buying one in the store.
An issue that arises from this is the fact that most MP3 players today will hold anywhere from 150 to 3000 songs. It doesn’t take much to realize that could get rather costly. Plus, with new songs being published all the time, you’d have to continually download new songs to keep your playlist fresh. Enter subscription music.
Subscription music sites offer the ability to listen to new music without having to download it to your computer. You can select a playlist of new music to stream to your computer while you work. These generally cost about $5-10 per month. Some of these sites even let you download the music to your computer, but not to burn or transfer it, so the listening is not affected by bandwidth limitation. The problem of transfer still remains, though.
To cure this problem, a few of the companies have what they call, “To Go” features. Generally for about six dollars more per month, you can transfer these tracks to your MP3 player to take with you. This is about the cost of a CD each month, but you get the newest music as often as you like. This seems like the perfect solution to those who want the latest music wherever they go.
I have tried three of these services; Yahoo! To Go, Real Rhapsody To Go, and Napster To Go. Each have large libraries, and most of the latest music available for transfer. The cost of each is about the same, while Yahoo allows you to prepay for an entire year at a savings of three dollars per month. After trying all three, I settled on Napster.
As I tried each of these services, device compatibility was first on my list of importance. I don’t have an MP3 player, per se, but have a Dell Axim pocket PC. It has Windows Media Player, so I needed something that worked with that. Fortunately, all three services use either WMAs or MP3s. It just became a matter of compatibility with the device. Yahoo listed the Axim X50v. I have an X51v, which is primarily the same, with the exception of having double the on board memory. I subscribed, started downloading tracks to transfer, then started the transfer. None of the tracks would play. I inquired to customer service and was told that they did not support my device, even though they did support it’s brother. I was disappointed and canceled the subscription.
Next I tried Real Rhapsody. They listed my device as supported. So, again, I began downloading songs, building playlists and transferring. Again, I ran into problems. I was told various problems. Some error codes stated that my device was not supported and some stated that I didn’t have the proper rights to transfer the music. I contacted support and after several contacts was told I needed to delete all music licenses on my computer and redownload them. Since I have purchased music from several different services, this was not an option I wanted to pursue. I canceled my subscription.
Finally I arrived at Napster. I came here last because of my perceptions, the ones listed at the beginning. While my device was not listed, they do offer a free 512MB player, guaranteed to work. Since the card I am using in my Axim is 512 MB, that sounded perfect. I subscribed and started downloading songs in anticipation of the arrival of my player. While I was waiting, I thought I’d see if my Axim would work. I began transferring and to my surprise, I encountered zero issues with the transfers. I could take my music with me. After a few days, my new MP3 player arrived and I transferred my music to it. With device compatibility being such an issue, the free player can make the difference. By the way, they also offer a 1GB player for $50.
I am now able to go more into detail of the service. I am unable to compare it to the others as I was not with them long enough to know their full capabilities. So, with that said, don’t discount them if you have a compatible device.
With Napster, I am not limited to just one device to transfer to. I can transfer my subscription music (all references are to subscription music as purchased or ripped music has no limitations) to up to three devices. This works great if you have roommates or siblings or children. As long as they have a compatible device, they can share your service. If three roommates combine, they can cut the service to just a few dollars each per month.
Napster also allows you to install your account onto three different computers. They also allow you to sync your other computers to have the same songs without those computers being networked together. Again, this is a tremendous benefit for homes with multiple computers.
While Yahoo and Real require stand alone players to download your subscription music, Napster has both a stand alone and Windows Media Player plug-in. This means you can get all your music through your Media Player without a separate download and program. You can use all the features in Media Player that you are already familiar with. You can also use Media Player to transfer to your device. This makes mixing music from your library and subscription much easier.
To this point, I have only found one downside to my Napster subscription. There are some songs which are not licensed through Napster for transfer. Whether musicians still don’t trust Napster or the cost of having those songs in their library is higher than they are willing to pay, I’m not sure. It can be a bit disappointing, though to find a song for transfer only to learn that it’s not an option.
Napster also has other features, from radio stations to suggested playlists, they make finding and listening to music easy and interesting. Using an MP3 player allows us to take our music with us wherever we go, Napster just increases our library. With the high cost of having a large library, “To Go” subscriptions are just the ticket to having a large library and keeping the cost down, and in my opinion, Napster is the best ticket.