Why not to Pay the Napster Taxman

Pretty interesting analysis on the Napster To Go service – especially interesting after seeing their spots in the superbowl. As someone who digitized his whole collection I can fully relate to this. I still wouldn’t mind topping off the tank though, but I guess I would prefer it come through iTunes so I could continue have a single, simple management system for all of my music.

From where we sit, the math doesn’t break down terribly well in Napster’s favor.

Let’s take a look at consumer A. This consumer goes to Amazon.com and does a search for Creative – one of the Napster supported music device makers – and picks up a 20GB player for $249.99. Let’s assume he keeps the device for three years, paying Napster all the time. That’s $538 for the Napster service, bringing the three-year total to $788.19.

Consumer B types iPod into the Amazon.com search engine and finds a 20GB device for $299. Apple doesn’t offer a subscription service, so this customer has to buy songs at the 99 cent rate or at $9.99 per album. Subtracting the price of the iPod from the $788, consumer B would have $489 left over for music. That’s roughly worth 489 songs or 49 albums.

We posit that during this three-year period both Consumer A and Consumer B will actually end up with close to the same number of songs on their devices. Customers do not, as Napster suggests, pay $10,000 to fill their iPods with 10,000 songs just because the capacity is there. They take their existing music, CDs and MP3s, and put that onto the device first, then later add iTunes songs as they go along. A Napster customer would have a similar mix of old music and new downloads.

The big difference here is that after the three years are up, Consumer B has something to show for his investment. He still owns the music. If the Napster customer stops paying for the service, his music is all gone. He’s paying $179 per year to rent music. This isn’t high quality stuff either. It’s DRM (digital rights management)-laced, low bitrate slop. [The Register]

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