Napster strikes back at Spotify with 12 free MP3s a month for subscribers

Spotify has has so much media attention over the past year - including winning a Stuff Award for its music streaming service - that it's easy to forge

Well, now Napster has struck back.

First, anyone in the UK will now be able to access Napster Lite to buy songs a la carte in DRM-free MP3 format (well done guys, only 16 months later than Napster US and every other music store).

Second - and more significant - subscribers to the £9.95 a month Napster Unlimited service will now get 12 MP3s to download and keep every month. Which means you can use Napster to sample all the songs you want to listen to from its 8 million-strong catalogue, and then keep your favourite album of the month. Seems like a pretty good deal for the price of a CD. (Remember CDs?)

Of course, there are two significant problems facing Napster: the service only works on Windows, and if you want to use a mobile device you have to pay £14.95 - a hefty price which, bizarrely, doesn't seem to include those 12 free MP3s.

We have reason to believe that Napster clients for Mac and iPhone are in the works. But until they appear - together with a new pricing model, and an ad-funded free streaming service - it's hard to believe that Napster will recapture ground lost to Spotify.

Which is a shame, because the original, illicit incarnation of Napster could have been a massive commercial success - and saved the music industry - if only the labels had engaged with it to provide a Spotify-type service at the beginning of the decade. Oh the irony.

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