HITS Daily Double
The pieces of the new Napster are in place, but the name don’t mean a thing
if it ain't got
that swing.


Apple Has the Flavor, MusicMatch and Roxio Open Windows and We Give Our Picks to Click

HITS is pleased to present an exclusive report from New York’s Plug.In technology confab from guest reporter Josh Warner. We’re especially pleased because Josh did all the work and is really cheap—though why he’d waste his effort on behalf of this lame website remains a mystery.

At the Jupiter Plug.In Conference in New York City, Apple Computer announced that over 6.5 million songs have been downloaded from their iTunes Music Store, including one copy of America’s "Horse With No Name." Meanwhile, Roxio announced their plans to launch Napster 2.0 (a very tame descendant of the file-swapping bad boy) with over 500,000 legal music tracks in time for Christmas. And MusicMatch crowed about download-sales agreements recently obtained from BMG, EMI Music, Universal Music Group and other labels for their Windows-based digital music service, pegged to launch this fall.

Conference organizer Jupiter had its own announcement to make—the cutting back of its earlier online music-sales forecast, including songs downloaded digitally and music purchased online but delivered by regular mail—to $3.3 billion in 2008, rather than the more optimistic previous prognosis of $5 billion in sales by 2007. However Jupiter’s smaller prediction failed to dampen the "We’ve learned from our mistakes and are inching forward" refrain among this year’s digital music conference attendees.

The Plug.In report card:

Apple: Steve Jobs’ outfit was clearly this year’s digital-music darling. The firm’s Peter Lowe trotted out the facts: 6.5 million songs sold. Over 200,000 tracks available for download, with more added daily, including song exclusives from the likes of Moby, Avril Lavigne and other favorites. 46% sold as complete albums. 80% sold from catalog. Uniform pricing at 99 cents a la carte. One-click shopping. The takeaway: If you make it easy, they will buy. Even if it’s solely for Mac users at the moment and only represents a small slice of the overall PC market. The future: iTunes for Windows launches this fall. In addition to its well designed, cleverly marketed and generally acclaimed iTunes, Apple enjoys an edge as the maker of the only portable digital player to have any real market traction, the iPod.

Napster: Now owned by Roxio, a company known for their CD-burning software, Napster will use the Microsoft Windows Media format and have a la carte downloads mixed with subscription offerings and Internet radio. They’re also using 350,000 pre-cleared tracks from their acquisition of the Sony/UMG-backed pressplay, and expect to offer 500,000 by launch. Napster gets to take full advantage of its Roxio connection, including the 10,000 retail outlets where Roxio software is sold and the 100 million PCs with Roxio software installed. Expect Napster SKUs bundled with Roxio CD-burning software—care for a hit song to go along with that burn? The takeaway: The pieces are in place, but the name don’t mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. The future: Napster Redux in time for Christmas.

MusicMatch: The San Diego-based company, which has 150,000 customers paying $5 a month for its MX streaming subscription music service, jumps into the download business this fall. CEO Dennis Mudd stresses that 37 million registrations of its Jukebox music-management software (the default Windows app for iPod users, by the way) and its success with streaming subscriptions give MusicMatch an edge with its own download music sales. Takeaway: MusicMatch slogs through licensing hell but gets what the other guys get. The future: MusicMatch matches the competition.

Josh Warner