Napster has taken a leaf out of the mobile phone industry’s book and is offering new subscribers to its Napster to Go service a free MP3 player.

From 14 September, anyone who signs up on a minimum 3-month subscription for Napster to Go, Napster’s service for portable media players, will receive a 512MB Sandisk Sansa m230, which is capable of storing around 250 tracks.

A month’s subscription costs £14.95 for Napster to Go, which works like a rental service for music. As long as the user continues to subscribe, he or she can continue to download unlimited tracks to a DAP. Unsubscribe, however, and the music dies.

Napster’s vice president, Leanne Sharman, explained the new marketing idea, saying, “We see a parallel in the UK between the mobile phone industry and the digital music business".

“The mobile industry is more mature than ours, but it began as a pay-as-you-go business reliant on handset sales. This is the model for the future of the digital music industry where content is king and MP3 players are disposable.”

The Sansa m230 isn’t the most beautiful or innovate MP3 player ever created, but it has a decent set of specifications, including an FM tuner, built-in microphone, and a backlit LCD display. No fancy video and photo playback here.

So what’s next? Buy 1000 songs on iTunes, get a free iPod?