The site that started it all, and either destroyed or revolutionized (or both) the music industry, Napster has been through several iterations since it rocked the web in 1999. Currently it’s a perfectly legal subscription streaming site, owned by Best Buy.
Napster boasts a library of 12 million tracks, and offers a range of plans. Web access runs $15 for three months, $30 for six months, and $50 for a year; web and mobile access is $10 for a month, $30 for three months, and $96 for a year. Users are required to submit a credit card when signing up for a trial.
Positives: Napster offers the same basic features as many of the other services (good design, easy to navigate, great selection of new releases) but shines when it comes to under-recognized categories. Searching by genre, for example, pulls up not only alternative and pop selections but a wide variety of classical tracks, children’s music, Christian and Gospel artists, and comedy albums. While I’m sure Napster discourages sharing accounts, it’s perhaps the only service people an entire extended family could use and all find something to listen to. The radio function is also solid; searching for Lady Gaga nets one of her tracks, Taio Cruz, Estelle, and Mariah Carey.
Negatives: The service is a little too comprehensive, in that searching for the band Phoenix brings up fifteen options, and “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” the band’s best known album, is ninth in the list of search results.
Who it’s great for: Fans of genres less-popular genres will be super-served by Napster, but pop and rock fans can also enjoy the service. Napster also boasts a strong recommendation engine. While it’s not as new or sexy as some of the other services, Napster is a sleeper hit.