Napster offers free music once again

Online music service Napster has moved to an ad-supported music distribution system that allows users to listen to any one of Napster's two million music tracks free of charge. The free service only allows tracks to be played up to five times, however, and can only be used via a Macromedia Flash-based music player on the Napster website. After reaching the five play limit, users are invited either to buy the individual track for $0.99 or to sign up for a monthly subscription. The subscriptions cost either $9.95 a month for unlimited online access or $14.95 a month for the ability to download music to portable music players. This offer excludes the iPod, which doesn't support the service's Windows Media Audio format.

Napster CEO Chris Gorog says the new ad-supported service is "the closest we have ever come to the original vision of the Napster service . . . except now, it's legal." Gorog hopes the change in business model can pay off similarly to the company's ad campaign last year, which he claims increased sales by 100%.

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