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Napster picks former Capital FM song picker to pick songs

But will Jeff Smith pick 'too much pop'?

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Napster's UK operation has brought in former Capital Radio programming chief Jeff Smith as its own Programming Director, the company said today.

Smith's new role will see him "source and select" Napster UK's content. His brief, the company said, is to work with both major and independent labels, and to span all musical genres, to pick out the songs and artists the download service's customers will most want to buy and to hear via its streamed audio channels.

Napster UK reckons UK music buyers have "diverse tastes", which may prove a problem for Smith, who left Capital after the station was forced to confess that its played too much pop music.

Capital runs seven stations in the UK, including London's Capital FM, its flagship station. Smith joined the company in June 2000 from BBC Radio One, where he was head of music policy. Smith became Capital FM's Programme Controller. In 2002, he took charge of the whole group's programming.

By January 2003, Capital FM's share of London's listeners had fallen from 10.3 per cent to 8.8 per cent in the face of aggressive competition from rival commercial stations Heart FM and Jazz FM, and Smith's erstwhile employer, Radio One.

"We had not taken in to account the urban differences particular to London," a Capital spokeswoman told The Guardian newspaper at the time. "One size doesn't fit all and London is different to other cities. We were playing too much pop."

Smith quit the company that same month, "by mutual agreement". Both sides said the departure was an amicable one.

Since then, Smith has acted as a consultant for a variety of media organisations, including BBC Worldwide, Napster said. It considers Smith's appointment as a significant hire, which will certainly helps position the company as a major commercial player in mainstream music consumption in the UK, as opposed to a service just geared towards computer geeks.

Smith's appointment "should send out a strong signal to the rest of the industry that we're about to experience a major change in how we consume music", said recently appointed Napster UK MD Leanne Sharman in a statement.

He'll have his work cut out for him. Napster claims to be currently the second most popular US music download service, but is a long way behind Apple's iTunes Music Service. Like Napster, ITMS is coming to the UK later this year = "by the end of the summer", in Napster's case - and both will be up against established players like BT's Dotmusic, HMV, Wippit, and Sony's Connect service, dut to launch in June. ®

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