Students at Pennsylvania State University will soon be able to listen to digital music through the recently relaunched Napster 2.0 free of charge. The existence of Penn State’s new online music service with Napster was confirmed Thursday by an announcement posted on the University’s Web site.
The details of the service are expected to be outlined by University President Graham Spanier at 02:15 p.m. Eastern time, after Spanier’s scheduled appearance at a technology conference in Anaheim, California.
Representatives from Penn State, Napster LLC and Napster’s parent company, Roxio Inc. could not immediately be reached for comment.
It is unknown how the University will pay Napster for the digital music service. The newly relaunched Napster 2.0 offers access to over 500,000 tracks through individual download, monthly subscription and Internet radio, with fees ranging from US$0.99 to download individual songs and $9.95 to download albums to $9.95 per month for its service providing unlimited downloads and streaming.
Mark Mulligan, senior analyst with Jupiter Research in London, said that Napster’s deal with Penn State was a smart marketing plan. “The challenge is to try and turn around the established habit of young music fans and convert them into ‘legitimate’ fee-paying music users. They are definitely the hardest market to turn around,” he said.
By providing a compelling free service to students at Penn State that is also coupled with a small fee paying aspect, Napster could educate young music users on the value of paying for music and impress upon them the notion that cost goes with quality, Mulligan said.
“This is a very welcome step in the right direction. All digital music services need to cater to young users who don’t have high levels of disposable income now,” he said.
The Penn State agreement would also provide Napster with the bonus of establishing the brand at an early age, Mulligan said.
Roxio, in Santa Clara, Calif., launched the new Napster service on Oct. 29 and is faced with turning the well-known brand into a successful revenue-generating music service. Initially known as the pioneer free file-swapping service popular on college campuses, Napster was forced to shut down in 2001 after a drawn out legal battle with recording companies and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
“Napster is still a really strong brand and the people who associated it only with free music are a little older and for the most part no longer at university,” Mulligan said.
Universities have been grappling with the popularity of free peer-to-peer file sharing over their networks and the issue of trading unlicensed material over those networks. Last month, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shut down a system created by two students giving students in university dorms access to thousands of songs over the school’s cable television network.
Penn State’s Spanier serves as co-chairman, along with Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA, of The Joint Committee of the Higher Education and Entertainment Communities, a group formed last year to explore ways of curbing illegal music swapping on college campuses. In a statement last month, Spanier said that the progress in charting solutions and awareness of the problems associated with the piracy of copyrighted material had “been dramatic in recent months.”