Napster Gives Away Free Music

No, this isn't a headline of a few years ago. This is news as of yesterday.

Napster has struck a deal to allow AT&T wireless customers to download music for free, to do with what they want, for a year.

This may not sound like much -- but it harkens back to all those mistakes that the music industry made in dealing with the Internet a few years back. Music execs are still reeling from these decisions, which caused losses of 10% or more in overall business each of the last several years.

The Napster deal reflects again the issues that mostly traditional TV and film content companies are dealing with when it comes to the Internet and users "sharing" content.

Some have decided to make friends, such as CBS and NBC have done with the likes of YouTube. Others have weighed in and determined that YouTube is the devil for their digital business extensions. On this side, Viacom has decided to speak in legal language.



The Napster deal means new or existing AT&T customers can have unlimited access to more than 3 million song tracks that customers can transfer, freely,  to compatible wireless phones and music devices.

Free?  Wasn't that a major problem for the music industry not so long ago? Not so much now. TV and film content producers didn't make that same mistake. In addition, to all those $1.99 per song deals via iTunes Music Store, those TV/films companies were smart enough to also offer free content -- and have all of it supported by advertising.

So what is the lesson learned here? As usual, it is not only a balancing act between what an entertainment/content company wants and what its customers wants. It's also having the vision to see what business will be like five or 10 years down the road.

From there, you work backwards. Then forward. No napping allowed.

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