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Nap Attack

By: Ginny YangIn the midst of rising CD prices and RIAA lawsuits, Apple’s iTuneshas been hailed as a ray of hope for the long-suffering musicindustry. The revolutionary music store recently celebrated its 10millionth download (at 99 cents a pop), offering a cheap and legalalternative for music-loving technophiles since debuting in April.However, the company’s market has remained limited, since theservice did not reach the estimated 95 percent of computer userswho own PCs. As a result of the success of their Mac version,iTunes introduced an identical Windows format this past Thursday tothe increasingly competitive business of legal downloads.

Despite being considered one of the best online music stores, Apple faces several rivals that threaten their Windows franchise. According to, there are still over 50 websites that offer illegal file sharing. Legal alternatives are also abundant: RealNetworks’ RealOne Rhapsody, available since May, offers 200,000 downloadable songs for 79 cents each; Musicmatch, which debuted in September, charges 99 cents a track and also has 200,000 songs (as compared to iTunes, which boasts over 400,000 tracks in its catalog). Their biggest foe, however, will be the newly revamped Napster-the brand that launched the online music phenomenon. Not only does Napster 2.0 have the name recognition, it offers the largest online song collection (at over 500,000 tracks) available for 99 cents each and provides 30-second song “samples,” videos, exclusive access to Billboard charts, and articles from Fuzz, their online music magazine. In addition, those willing to pay an extra $9.95 monthly fee for premium service will enjoy unlimited downloading and streaming radio when the platform debuts on October 29. Seth Oster, the company’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs, feels confident in the service’s success: “Clearly, there is no question that Napster is the strongest, most well-known music brand on the planet.?We are a service that is built by music people, not by a computer company.”

Nonetheless, iTunes has greatly expanded its presence, signing distribution agreements with 200 independent labels in addition to the five major North American commercial music companies. Celebrity playlists (including contributions from Michelle Branch, Billy Corgan, Missy Elliott, Ben Folds, Moby, Sting, and Michael Stipe) and exclusive content (from artists Black Eyed Peas, Coldplay, the Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones) are features that have been added to set the service apart from its competition. In addition, Apple has teamed up with Pepsi for a massive ad campaign that will ultimately give away 100 million songs for free. The promotion will allow Mac and Windows PC users to download tracks if they find winning codes in bottles of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Sierra Mist. The high-profile campaign will begin on February 1 with an ad set to debut during the Super Bowl.