Roxio is taking a page out of the phone industry's book by issuing prepaid Napster Cards for use in buying music downloaded from a new for-pay Napster.
Roxio, the CD- and DVD-burning software company that now owns Napster, will sell $14.95 Napster cards at 14,000 retail locations.
The cards, which won't be out until mid-November, will buy 15 song downloads from Napster 2.0, a new music service scheduled to go online Wednesday.
Napster 2.0 will be the latest attempt by the record industry and technology companies to turn back the worldwide music-sharing fad ignited in 2000 by its predecessor, the original Napster. The record industry has labeled file sharing as illegal online piracy that it says has contributed heavily to a three-year slump in CD sales.
The original Napster was particularly popular with youths. New Napster President Mike Bebel said the prepaid cards, which feature the famous Napster cat logo, will help win over teenagers who may not have access to their own credit cards to buy songs legally online.
Napster 2.0 is expected to be one of the most visible entries into a new market for online music services, joining a field that includes Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes Music Store, RealNetworks Inc.'s Rhapsody, BuyMusic.com and MusicMatch Downloads.
Customers who sign up for those services typically need a credit card, although Apple earlier this month added a feature that allows parents to pay for their children's music purchases with a prepaid monthly "allowance" account. The iTunes store also offers an online gift certificate that is redeemed for downloadable songs.
Bebel, however, said he believes the Napster Card will be more widely accepted, because it can be purchased with cash and because stored-value cards are already used for everything from long-distance phone calls and department store gift certificates to prepaid cups of latte.
As with iTunes, Napster 2.0 will offer songs for 99 cents each or $9.99 per album. In addition, Napster will offer a premium service costing $9.95 per month that gives customers unlimited downloading.
The new prepaid cards can only be used for the basic a la carte service. Each Napster Card will have a code that the owner logs in online, creating an account that is charged each time a song is downloaded.