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Napster-To-Go Launches $30M Marketing Effort

Los Angeles — Apple’s iTunes marketing campaign played a key role in last year’s iPod sales explosion, but now the computer company will get some major marketing competition with the launch of a $30 million campaign to support the official launch of the industry’s first portable subscription-music service, dubbed Napster To Go.

The Napster campaign will include an ad during the Super Bowl this weekend.

Hardware companies supporting the campaign are Creative Labs, Dell and iRiver, and retailers supporting the launch include Best Buy.

Napster To Go service, launched in preview form late last year, lets consumers download any song from the service’s entire 1 million-song catalog for a monthly $14.95 subscription fee. The songs can be played from a PC’s hard drive and be transferred to compliant portables. PC-stored songs “time out” if the subscription lapses. Songs on the portables time out unless the portables are periodically connected to the PC.

The service allows consumers to listen to tens of thousands of downloaded songs stored on their portables without paying up to a buck apiece for them. Apple has said it has no plans for such a service for iTunes.

At least six portables will support Napster To Go at launch. They are the Creative Zen Micro, Gateway MP3 Photo Jukebox and iRiver H10, along with Portable Media Centers from Creative, iRiver and Samsung. Two other music portables, the Samsung YH-920 and Dell Pocket DJ, will be compliant with a software download available within a few weeks of yesterday’s launch.

The companies will participate in a “Works With Napster To Go” logo program, which helps consumers identify compliant products at retail. The products will also be included in Napster advertising and will feature one free month of Napster To Go service. Best Buy will offer in-store support of the program and offer many of the compliant devices, Napster said.

The rental model is a throwback in ways to the 2000 launch of the first authorized download sites, which were also subscription-based. The new Napster service, however, features new elements said to eliminate consumers’ objections to the previous efforts, including the ability to transfer “rented” songs to compressed-music portables.

The original sites never achieved mainstream success. For an additional fee, only a handful of PC-stored songs could be permanently transferred to a compressed-music portable, and only a handful of portables supported the services’ codecs. In addition, also for an additional fee, most sites let consumers burn only select songs to a recordable data CD. Also at the time, the downloadable-song selection was also limited to less than 300,000 — a fraction of the music companies’ catalogs.