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Napster CEO outlines subscription pricing

The file-swapping company's new CEO is floating a new price for its planned subscription service, saying that downloading will soon cost about $5.

John Borland Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Borland
covers the intersection of digital entertainment and broadband.
John Borland
2 min read
New Napster Chief Executive Konrad Hilbers is floating a new price for the file swapper's planned subscription service, saying that downloading will soon cost "about $5."

In an interview with German magazine Stern, published Wednesday, Hilbers defended Napster against charges that the service had become irrelevant after being shut down for a month.

"Napster is not dead," Hilbers said in the interview. "The name is very valuable, and we operate with a high level of pressure to make it a functioning company."

Hilbers did not give details on when the subscription service, long slated for release sometime this summer, would launch. But he said the monthly fees would be approximately $5.

The interview was conducted in German.

Former CEO Hank Barry said earlier this year that subscription prices would likely range between $4.95 and $9.95, depending on how much music subscribers wanted and on whether they wanted the ability to burn CDs or move the music to portable devices.

Those plans have changed somewhat as Napster was forced to change its original model, signing up with the MusicNet wholesale distribution service as a way to get major label music from EMI Recorded Entertainment, Warner Music and BMG Entertainment. Those major label songs will only be available by paying an extra fee on top of the ordinary Napster charge, the company has said.

The base Napster service will provide access to the music of more than 200 independent labels. Songs will be distributed in a new proprietary format dubbed .NAP, rather than MP3.

The file-swapping service has been shut down since July 1. An appeals court ruled that Napster is able to operate in the short term as long as it maintains strong filters, but the company has nevertheless kept its service offline.

A message that has remained unchanged for weeks tells Napster users that "file transfers have been temporarily suspended while Napster upgrades" databases supporting its new filtering technology.

Napster declined to comment on the interview.

News.com's John Borland reported from San Francisco, and staff writer Estelle Dumout reported from France.