Napster launches Japanese service


TOKYO -- Internet music download company Napster on Tuesday launched a Japanese service aimed at tapping a growing market for music-to-go, the company said.

The service was to go live online at 10 p.m. Tuesday in Japan and will offer more than 1.5 million Japanese and foreign tunes, said Napster officials.

"As the second-largest music market in the world, Japan presents a very large economic opportunity for Napster," said Brad Duea, the company's president.

The launch of the Japan service puts U.S.-based Napster Inc. in head-to-head competition with Apple's iPod. But the service hits the market six months behind schedule because Napster wanted to conduct further market research and firm up local alliance with Tower Records, which will tout Napster in its stores.

Napster Japan is a joint-venture between Napster and Tower Records. Napster owns 31.5 percent of the joint venture, while Tower Records holds 53.5 percent. The remainder is held by an investment group.

Napster is offering three different download options. One carries a monthly price of 1,280 yen ($10.87) and allows unlimited downloads to as many as three personal computers.

Another service costs 1,980 yen ($16.82) a month for unlimited downloads to three computers and three portable devices, such as MP3 players or mobile phones.

The third service is an a la carte service that charges 150 yen ($1.27) per Western song and 200 yen ($1.70) for Japanese songs.

"The success of the service demonstrates not only the international capabilities of our platform, but also the international appeal of the Napster brand," Duea said.

The new online company adds to Napster's portfolio of services in the United States, Canada, Britain, and Germany.