Yesterday, Harry wrote about Napster’s new price plan of $5 a month for unlimited online streaming and five MP3 downloads. I was intrigued, so I signed up.
The service isn’t new, but the updated price calls for a fresh evaluation. Consider this a mini review after an afternoon of tinkering.
- Software or Cloud: The Web version of Napster is almost as fully-featured as the software, with a sleek pop-out window that acts as the player. The software lets you integrate your existing MP3 library and adds some much-needed right-click functionality.
- The Interface: Napster’s interface looks a lot like iTunes, and that’s a good thing. On the left are your navigation headings along with any playlists you create, while the library and artist information resides in the middle. There are also radio stations and an “Automix” feature that throws together familiar and new music based on your tastes.
- MP3 Downloads: Every month, you can download five songs. Along with the unlimited streaming, you’re getting far more value than you would from five iTunes tracks.
- 30 Second Tracks: Leave it to some record labels to dip only a toe into the 21st century. Some labels aren’t cool with offering full tracks, which isn’t cool with me.
- $5 Per Month? While Napster cheerily announced the price point in its press release, it conveniently didn’t say that this a limited time offer. The real price is $7 per month, to be reinstated at an unknown date. By spilling the beans yesterday, before the new site and disclaimer were available, we had no reason to assume the price would someday go up when covering the news. That’s underhanded.
- No Online Access to Downloaded Music: I imagine this would be technically daunting, but I wish the browser version of Napster would let you play local MP3s. It should at least sync up with your library and add streaming versions of songs you already own.
- Minor Gripes: No party shuffle, no importing playlists from iTunes, limited format support (.WMA and .MP3 only) and local MP3s won’t link up to the artist’s online section.
The Verdict: Even if my list of greivances outweighs the positives in number, I’m pretty happy with my investment. Sure, Napster has its share of nuisances tht prevent me from dropping WinAmp and iTunes altogether, and I’m worried that some day the subscription price will creep upwards. But as a tool for listening to and discovering lots of music? You could do a lot worse for five bucks a month.