Napster More Recognisable Than iTunes, Survey

In a recent US survey by Ipsos-Insight, Napster has come out as the most recognised pay-for music download service. When presented with a list of services, Napster scored 79% recognition over iTunes, which hit 46%. More details are in the press release, but RealPlayer Music Store and MusicMatch weren’t that far behind around the 40% level.

We think that Napster has a huge debt of gratitude to pay to the RIAA and the US recording industry for their original barrage of anti-Napster press. What is surprising is iTunes wasn’t higher, we suspect there’s some confusion in the mind of the consumer with so much noise being made about iPod, iTunes becomes eclipsed.

Apple workers at 1 Infinite Loop can breathe a sign of relief about the quality of their offering. When asked which was the “best” fee-based service, 31% of the respondents rated iTunes the tops, leaving Napster trailing at 23%.

IPSOS research

Apple Avoids French Courts Opening FairPlay DRM

VirginMega, a joint venture between Virgin France and local media company Lagardère, has failed in its legal attempt to get Apple to license it DRM technology.

VirginMega claims that Apple’s refusal to license its FairPlay technology – the Digital Rights Management (DRM) system that allows songs from the iTunes store to be played only on iPods – is hampering the expansion of its digital music download market. The retailers complaint was ruled to be short on convincing evidence, according to the French Competition Council.

The problem, as VirginMega sees it, is that as its own online music service uses Microsoft’s audio files format (WMA) and is protected by Microsoft’s DRM technology, it isn’t supported by Apple’s iPod digital audio player. Since Apple won’t build WMA compatibility into the iPod, and as the iPod is the number one digital audio player worldwide, VirginMega is obviously miffed. Virgin wants Apple to licence FairPlay so it can incorporate the technology into the tracks it sells, thus making them iPod-compatible. The lack of compatibility between rival music services and players will certainly put VirginMega at a ‘disadvantage’, so it’ll have to look elsewhere to improve its sales to WMA-compatible devices.

Clearly Apple isn’t keen to share. Some feel that Apple may have shot itself in the foot here, as wider content support for FairPlay could help to drive the sale of iPods. By establishing AAC and the FairPlay DRM as a standards, more iPods would be sold and other standards, like WMA, would possibly be left by the wayside. Conversely if other music sites started using FairPlay, Apple would lose the relationship with the music purchaser.

Paid Music Downloads up 150%

New findings from TEMPO reveal that in July of 2004, more than one-third (35 per cent) of American downloaders aged 12 and older had paid a fee to download music or MP3 files off of the Internet, roughly a 150 per cent increase over levels witnessed in late 2003 (compared to 22 per cent in December 2003). This translates into roughly 20 million people within the current US population (according to 2000 US Census figures). The report highlights the evolving role the PC has in music exploration, listening, and purchasing behaviours.

“In the past year, we’ve witnessed the high-profile launches of many new online music services and download stores. Combined with the RIAA’s ongoing campaign to curb file-sharing, this has prompted many increasingly digitally-dependent consumers to experiment with the legitimate online methods of music acquisition currently available,” said Matt Kleinschmit, Vice President for Ipsos-Insight, and author of the TEMPO research.

Thus far, adult downloaders aged 25 to 54 are most likely to have paid to download digital music (40 per cent among 25 to 34 year olds; 46 per cent among 35 to 54 year olds). Interestingly, downloaders aged 12 to 17 were the least likely of all American downloader age groups to say they have paid for digital music (16 per cent), perhaps reflecting the lack of non-credit card based payment methods available on current fee-based services.

Apple Computer, a driving force in online music, has announced that users have downloaded more than 150 million songs from its iTunes Music Store, marking another major milestone for the online music business. iTunes users are now downloading more than 4 million songs per week, a rate of over 200 million songs per year. Apple also sells iTunes gift cards in the US at Best Buy retail stores. “Crossing 150 million downloads marks another major milestone for the online music business,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Applications.

In another move to push online sales, Napster UK, a subsidiary of Roxio, was the first to launch the UK’s first ever digital music pre-paid cards. Available through the Dixons Group, the pre-paid cards are available as gifts or for those without a credit card, giving music fans a unique code that they can redeem against subscriptions or purchases of tracks from Napster’s catalogue.

Napster and Virgin Radio also launched the nation’s very first online music chart on national radio. The Napster Online Music Chart on Virgin Radio counts down the Top 20 tracks taken each week from Napster’s catalogue of over 1 million songs. The chart is not just based on permanent downloads, but also registers full-length streams and subscription downloads, helping to make it a relatively comprehensive assessment of online music tastes (albeit from a single source).


Apple Announce iTunes Online and New iPods

As previously rumoured, Apple announced two music-related products yesterday – the new iPod‘s and their iTunes Music Store service. The iPod is essentially an upgraded, thinner version of the current machine that holds up to 30GB. It comes with a new docking cradle and the same unit will work on both Mac and Windows (later in the year).

The iTunes Music Store is the really exciting part. It sounds like it’s simplicity itself, as they provide 30 second, full quality previews of each track and buying is easy as they’ve licenced the Amazon 1-click system. The initially 200,000 tracks available provided by the big five record companies (BMG, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal and Warner) and are individually purchasable prices at 99 cents a track. They’re stored in AAC format but users will be able to burn unlimited CD’s for personal use and will be able to copy to unlimited iPods Old and New, and to three different Macs. Interestingly downloaded music is sharable between machines on the same wired or wireless network – and by using streaming rather than copying they will placate the music industry. Sadly, due to the licencing restrictions from the music companies, the service will only be available in the US – at least initially.

Video: Steve Jobs launches new iPod’s and Music Store service – watch it

Apple secrecy on unreleased products is legendary, so it was amazing to see that all of the details of todays announcements were disclosed on slashdot back in December. I wonder if the poster is still working at Apple?