Can ‘Napster’ recreate the magic? The Napster brand is back in Europe where it will be rolled out across 14 countries by its current owner US streaming service Rhapsody. This time around though, it will be in the form of a legal, 100% paid streaming service hoping to rival the likes of Spotify and Deezer.The big question, of course, is whether this move is too little too late throughout Europe, and particularly in France where Deezer has near 80% in share in streaming and 15% of the total music market in France, local players like NRJ and Skyrock also command reasonable share on mobile, and ‘Google Play Music’ and possibly Apple on the horizon. Needless to say Napster’s going to have an uphill battle.
Napster’s entry offer isn’t going to make things any easier from them as, at first glance, it doesn’t appear to add any real value over Deezer’s and Spotify’s. Here’s a comparison chart from ZDnet which does a good job at highlighting Napster’s problem:
Basically, problem number one is that they are positioning themselves as a €9.95 ‘premium only’ service in a market where users have become accustomed to a ‘freemium’ model. Apparently, John Irwin, president of Rhapsody believes that ‘freemium doesn’t work’, so although this model seems to be more than working for leaders Spotify and Deezer, they’ve decided to double-down and go with their ‘one-sized fits all’ approach around the world. Next, in the battle for premium customers, which Deezer is winning handily at the moment, it’s not clear that Napster’s service offers anything compelling enough to entice premium subscribers to switch. Napster claims that a few additional value-adds, namely proposing editorial content, live sessions, and exclusive interviews with artists will make the difference. However, there’s no indication that premium customers really want these services. In addition, on the all-important audio quality metric Napster, which will be somewhere between 128 – 192 kbit/s, lags behind Deezer’s ‘up to’ 320 kbit/s.
One can only imagine the amount of marketing dollars (or euros) Rhapsody will need to shell out as it attempts to re-establish Napster as a leader in such a radically evolved and competitive market. Without a doubt they’ll try to play on Napster nostalgia to entice consumers. However, it remains to be seen whether European users still have any real connection to the Napster brand.