Napster has announced its paid music service, which at its core is modeled similarly to Microsoft’s Zune Pass
– except cheaper. For a measly $5
, they offer unlimited monthly access to Napster’s on-demand music streaming service and the ability to download five DRM-free tracks each month. This compares to Zune’s $15 per month plan with unlimited access to their music database and the ability to keep 10 songs monthly.
Napster boasts that it has the largest catalog of independent artists available, in addition to the mainstream labels, totaling seven million CD quality songs. Subscribers are able to choose between 60 commercial-free radio stations and more than 1,400 “expertly programmed playlists.” It also offers personalized recommendation tools and the top hits from more than 50 years of Billboard charts.
Negating the fact that both packages include limitless access to DRM-riddled MP3s, Zune’s service ultimately charges $1.50 per song at the end of the month, against $1 each at Napster. Zune runs $180 annually with the ability to keep 120 songs, and Napster $60 with 60 tracks. If you're going the paid route and need to "own" more than 60 MP3s a year, it seems the most logical solution to use a mixture of Napster and iTunes, or any other “a la carte” DRM-free music service.