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Napster UK pares prices

Paves way for local debut of Napster To Go service

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Napster UK today cut the prices of its digital music downloads, bringing them into line with what Apple's iTunes Music Store has been charging since day one.

The online music company also confirmed plans to bring its Napster To Go service, so far only available in the US, to the UK later this quarter.

From today, the service said, individual tracks will cost £0.79, down from £0.99, while album prices fall from a base-level £9.99 to £7.95.

There's a catch, of course. To pay the new, lower prices you have to be a subscriber, paying £9.95 a month to download any number of songs. The additional per-track and per-album prices need to be paid if you want to transfer the songs to a portable music player or burn them to CD. The prices also benefit non-subscribers acquiring music through music vouchers or pre-paid cards.

Napster didn't say when the new pricing will be applied to everyone else - essentially folk who pay by credit card when they download - beyond a broad "in the coming days".

However, the company did say the price cuts will pave the way for the launch of Napster To Go, its Windows Media 10-based service, which allows subscription-sourced content to be transferred to portable music players without a second payment. Napster's existing licensing framework for subscriptions does not cover transfers to music players. Transferring music to a player was therefore counted as a second, a la carte purchase, hence the extra £0.99, now £0.79.

Unlike WM9, WM10 ensures that subscription-sourced content on a portable player becomes unplayable if the subscription ever lapses, allowing Napster to sidestep that second, portable-oriented sale. That said, it charges more for Napster To Go than the regular subscription service.

Napster UK also said the move was made as a result of "record sales": over the Christmas period, though it declined to provide figures to back up the claim.

Separately, Apple this week said it has to date sold over 230m downloads worldwide, up 30m on the previously announced 200m figure, which it reported less than a month ago. ®

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