Napster markets paid service with free listens

Ad-supported version of online music service allows listeners to test drive songs in its library.

Napster unveiled a free ad-supported version of its online music service that allows users to listen to any song in its library as many as five times.

The move is designed to steer listeners to Napster's fee-based services once they have reached their five-play limit. Napster's announcement marks the latest incarnation of the popular music site, which endured legal challenges from record labels over Napster file-swapping software that allowed people to share and copy each other's music without purchasing it.

The new Napster

"With a vision to empower music fans in a legal environment, with an open, all-inclusive platform, we are very excited to share our new, free music experience at," Chris Gorog, Napster chief executive, said in a statement.

The newly minted service,, will allow users to tap into its library of more than 2 million major and independent-label tracks, via a Napster Web-based music player. Once a person tries to access a song for the sixth time, however, he or she will be given the choice to either purchase the song for 99 cents or sign up for Napster's monthly subscription service.

The new service, which is initially launching in the U.S., will include two additional features, NapsterLinks and Narchive.

NapsterLinks is designed to let users send friends links to songs on Napster's tryout list. The links can be shared via e-mail, instant messages, blogs and other forms of online communication.

The new service also will include Narchive, a music archive where the public can contribute to the "People's History of Music," with comments, Napster music links and images. That feature will be available in a test version but has not yet launched.

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