Napster 'not a big fan' of exclusive music tracks

Napster bets on music discovery for new streaming service

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Napster – once infamous for illegal music downloads – is back. But its new marketing boss says exclusive tracks are not something you'll find on it.

In an interview with TechRadar, Thorsten Schliesche, Napster's general manager of Europe, said, "Honestly, I'm not a big fan of exclusivity, because people get confused. If one service has an exclusive with one band, say, a b-side, and another service has another exclusive track, then people get frustrated."

The new Napster recently went live in the UK, launching with more than 15 million songs and its own online publication, The Mix.

Exclusive tracks have become an important staple of the digital music business. Streaming service Spotify has inked deals for exclusive previews and playlists, while Apple's iTunes exclusives have given it even greater clout with music fans.

A rapturous return?

The Napster brand is still remembered for its past with illegal music downloads, but Schliesche said it has value. Rhapsody acquired Napster from Best Buy in September 2011, and has repositioned the service for music streaming with a focus on music discovery and editorial.

In its latest incarnation, the service is competing directly with Spotify, which has grown rapidly since launching in the UK. Its pricing structure also mimics Spotify, with a monthly cost of £5 per month for computers only and £10 for computers and smartphones.

However, Schliesche believes that Napster's approach to content discovery, not exclusivity, is what will separate it in an already crowded market.

Radio head

"We decided to focus on editorial and new ways to discover music," he said to TechRadar. "Our challenge is to give people new ways to find the music they would like to listen to."

The service is built around genres and playlists. The former has 14 primary genres, each with layers of subgenres (over 650 in total), which Schliesche says enable users to easily identify the music they enjoy.

Each category is given its own home page, which includes descriptions, key artists and new releases. For example, you'll find the subgenre Folk Metal in Metal and Pop/Rock.

In the mix

The Mix is Napster's attempt at curating content to keep users engaged. It has hired an in-house team of writers to fill the service with reviews, features and video content. It is hoping that these daily, editorialised updates will entice people to discover new music on the site and differentiate it from the elephant in the room.

Apple iPad and Mac versions of Napster are due in a month with updates to Android promised in the same time-frame.

The original peer-to-peer file sharing service was founded in 1999 by Shawn Fanning, John Fanning and Sean Parker – only one of these has been played by Justin Timberlake in a movie.