Napster revamps UK music offering

Napster has decided to revamp its UK music offering, making it significantly cheaper than its old subscription service. The company is now offering unlimited streaming of tracks via the Web and through a desktop application for £5 a month, and it's throwing in 5 free MP3s each month to sweeten the deal, too.

Previously, users paid £10 per month for streaming with no MP3s, or £15 per month for streaming and unlimited download of DRMed music files which wouldn't work on an iPod. With the prices halved and free MP3s chucked in too, the new offering should prove significantly more attractive.

The catalogue comprises 8 million tracks from all four major labels as well as a smattering of indies, and - if you don't know what you want to listen to - there are also playlists, radio stations and recommendations offered. Napster is talking up the revamp as "the best value, legal music service you can access anywhere".

Napster's service can be accessed on mobile phones - the company has a mobile site which allows you to preview and download MP3s onto your handset, and a backup copy gets sent to your PC too. The service will work with Logitech's Squeezebox, Sonos' music systems and Terratec's NOXON iRadio.

As previously reported on Pocket-lint, subscriptions will be bundled with Dell PCs that entitle the user to a year's subscription to the service. Certain Dell laptops in  the Studio and Inspiron ranges will be offering the deal later in the month.

This is a developing story, so check back later on for updates.

UPDATE: Napster has also announced a deal with the Carphone Warehouse. The retail chain is owned by US electronics giant Best Buy which also owns Napster. The music streaming service will get a retail presence in 817 Carphone Warehouse stores that'll offer pre-paid cards with 3, 6, and 12 month subscriptions for £15, £30 and £60 respectively.

The stores will also be offering free trial cards that'll give a month's usage of the service - complete with five free MP3s - for nothing. Napster reckons that if it can get users to give its music streaming offering a try, then they'll be convinced and sign up long-term.

Existing Napster subscribers have been transitioned to a £10 per month package which has unlimited streaming but also offers 12 free MP3s per month. That offer will be available to new subscribers too, but not until later this year. Later this year, the catalogue will also be expanded to 10 million tracks.

Napster's Senior Marketing Manager for the UK, Dan Nash, told Pocket-lint that the company's target is younger, more casual music listeners who aren't prepared to shell out £10 each month, so this second service may well be a concession to the hardcore music fans.

Once the launch is complete, the company will be focusing on adding social media integration, as well as opening up an API so that it can expand its device integration. Napster's VP Sales & Marketing for Europe, Torsten Schliesche, said that the company was very interesterd in IPTVs to get music into the living room without resorting to a PC.

Oh, and for the audiophiles amongst you, we demanded to know the audio quality of the offerings. Napster's streaming service runs at 128kbps and its MP3 downloads are 256kbps. For comparative purposes, Spotify's free, ad-supported service offers 160kbps OGG Vorbis q5, whereas paid subscribers get 320kbps.