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The service is expected to go wide later this month, and CEO Konrad Hilbers has predicted its monthly fee will be in the $5-$10 range, which would make it competitive with major-backed services Pressplay and MusicNet.
NAPSTER: YOU BETA YOUR LIFE
Users Slated to Test Service Today; Netco Picks Billing Partner
Napster’s long-awaited subscription service—with built-in safeguards designed to placate rights-holders—is slated to begin beta testing today, Reuters reports.

Some 20,000 lucky volunteers will test-drive the paid version of the swappery.

Also, the netco named Portal Software Inc.'s Infranet customer management and billing software as its means of squeezing ducats out of its clientele and—get this—paying content owners!

Though CEO Konrad Hilbers declared at this week’s Future of Music Coalition confab in DC that Nappy would soon strike deals with majors (see story, 1/8), the netco’s musical offerings are for now limited to a very large catalog of indie recordings. As far as you know, anyway.

The service is expected to go wide later this month, and Hilbers has predicted its monthly fee will be in the $5-$10 range, which would make it competitive with major-backed services Pressplay and MusicNet. Bertelsmann-backed Napster has also signed up to be an affiliate of the latter, though we’ve yet to see exactly what that means.

Like those services, the new Napster will take pains to prevent users from engaging in the kind of unchecked, promiscuous file-sharing that can lead to depressed CD sales, litigation and painful chafing.

For one thing, the new version will offer both MP3s and ".nap" files. The latter will feature copy-protection technology, though indie artists and other adventurous rights-holders have the option of permitting the circulation of unprotected MP3 files.

There will also be chat rooms—a good place to hang out if you enjoy seeing how many ways a 13-year-old can type "Mudvayne rules"—as well as instant messaging, a custom Napster player (the only way to listen to those .nap files) and a buy button that allows purchases of discs via Bertelsmann-owned CDNOW.

Meanwhile, record-biz litigation against the swapco drags on.

We’ll have more on the Napster story in ten minutes, when 2,438 new press releases are issued.

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