Napster, developed in 1999 by Shawn Fanning, is a program that allows music to be traded over the internet. People were able to share high quality digital copies of music recordings over the internet using Napster. Napster did not store the recordings, however. It allowed its members who were logged onto the service to choose from an index of songs. Napster was one of the most popular sites on the internet. The site had some 15 million users in a year’s time. Many college students downloaded so many songs that many colleges had to block the site from their system.
A year after its launch, Napster was sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The RIAA represents major recording companies. The RIAA claimed that copyright laws were violated by Napster for allowing users to swap music recordings for free. The RIAA sought to stop the downloading of copyrighted songs, as well as damages for lost revenue. Song swapping had cost the music industry more than $300 million in lost sales. A few months later, Napster was sued by a heavy metal band, Metallica, and rap star Dr. Dre. They were suing Napster for copyright infringement.
In 2000, a judge granted the request of the RIAA and ordered Napster to stop making copyrighted recordings available for download. This would have shut Napster down. Napster was granted a last-minute reprieve until the lawsuits could be tried in court. Despite its many claims, Napster was found guilty of direct infringement of the RIAA’s musical recordings. The company was ordered to stop allowing its millions of users to download and share copyrighted material without properly compensating the owners of the material (Ferrell & Hartline, 2008). Napster later offered $1 billion to the recording industry to settle the lawsuit.
Napster also agreed that $150 million would be paid annually for the first five years to Sony, Warner, BMG, EMI, and Universal, and $50 million annually was allotted for independent labels. The recording industry refused the offer. The industry wanted Napster to shut down for good. Napster tried many times to compromise with the recording industry, but to no avail. Napster filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in 2002. The company also tried to reach a deal with Bertelsmann AG, their strategic partner. A few months later, a Delaware judge blocked the sale of the company to Bertelsmann.
Napster then laid off nearly its entire staff and proceeded to convert its Chapter 11 into a Chapter 7 liquidation. Many music labels were dabbling in online music distribution. Napster had clearly beaten them to it and had done so efficiently, which was the main problem for the company. It was obvious to the record labels that online distribution was here to stay. Napster’s name and assets were purchased by a company called Roxio. Roxio was a company known for its CD-burning software. Roxio had intentions to relaunch Napster as a fee-based service. Napster was renamed Napster 2. in 2003. Apple was one competitor for Napster, holding 70 to 80 percent of the online music market. Rhapsody holds 10 to 15 percent of the market, and Napster holds 5 to 10 percent of the market. The remaining portion is divided among several different companies (Ferrell & Hartline, 2008). Napster’s strategy focuses on being a subscription-based revenue model. Computer users could download as much music as they wanted for a fee of $14. 95 per month. Napster created partnerships with BellSouth, Ericsson, and XM Satellite Radio as a means to connect with untapped markets.
Napster partnered with Tower Records Japan and launched Napster Japan in 2006. The company also began a partnership with Japan’s largest mobile phone company. About 90 percent of music downloads in Japan occur through wireless phones (Ferrell & Hartline, 2008). Napster has shown interest in being acquired by another firm. Napster hired UBS Investment Bank to help with the sale. A SWOT analysis structures the assessment of the fit between what a firm can and cannot do (strengths and weakness), and the environmental conditions working for and against the firm (opportunities and threats).
The SWOT analysis for Napster would consist of the following (Ferrell & Hartline, 2008): Strengths •Large music library •Convenient and easy to use •Strong brand name and reputation Weaknesses •Lack of compatibility •Pricing •Limited areas of differentiation Opportunities •New technologies •Decline in illegal file sharing •Rapidly growing market Threats •Powerful competition •New technologies •Potential for disintermediation Looking back at the weaknesses listed in the SWOT analysis, one point that should be worked out is the pricing of Napster services. Napster is set up on a subscription-based model.
If the price per subscription was cheaper, more customers would subscribe to the site. Napster offers the same basic services as some of the other big names in the online music distribution industry. Another area to refine would be the lack of compatibility. Napster is not compatible with all MP3 players, especially the iPod. Those with an incompatible player will not want to purchase the service. New technology is emerging every day. Napster should work on creating avenues that will allow music to be downloaded to wireless devices, such as the smart phone, PDAs and other handheld devices.
Napster should put forth efforts to keep existing customers happy while also trying to expand the customer market. Keeping existing customers happy should always be a company’s top priority. Having a solid core of customers to build on is very important to the stability and success of the company (Business KnowledgeSource. com, 2010). By keeping the existing companies happy, Napster could offer a free one month subscription for those members who have been loyal to company for a certain amount of time. Flyers or inserts could also be placed in the packaging of MP3 players.
This advertisement would entice users to connect with Napster for all of their music downloads. With this deal, new users could download up to five songs for free before having to sign up for a subscription. Napster could offer discounts to new users for a certain period of time. For instance, a new user could get the first three months at a discounted rate before paying the regular price. There are many ways for Napster to expand their customer base. Finding out which plans work and which plans do not work is the key.