Music by Slipknot, Moby, the Black Crowes and many other indie-label artists will be available for sharing in the upcoming paid-subscription version of Napster, the company said Tuesday.
Napster has reached a deal with more than 150 indie imprints in the U.K. and Europe including V2, Roadrunner and Beggars Group whose rosters include such artists as Fear Factory, Coal Chamber, Tricky, Underworld, Badly Drawn Boy and Paul Oakenfold.
"We're very close to moving to a new phase of Napster," founder Shawn Fanning said Tuesday (June 26) in a London press conference. "This agreement is a very important step along the way."
The new version of Napster, which CEO Hank Barry said will launch by the end of the summer, is expected to include some major-label content via a deal with MusicNet, a joint venture involving EMI, Warner Music Group and BMG. The major-label songs will be available only from MusicNet's centralized servers, not through Napster's file-sharing system, Barry said.
When it launches in late summer or early fall, MusicNet will also be available via America Online and through software from MusicNet's co-owner, RealNetworks (see "Labels Announce Joint Venture To License Music"). The service is expected to include both streaming and downloadable music for a monthly fee.
Unlike the MusicNet material, music covered by the new indie-label deal can be shared on Napster, with the company promising to compensate indie artists and labels via subscription fees and song-tracking technologies.
Barry said Napster has not reached any decision on how much users will have to pay for its service. In the past, Barry has said that users who want access to MusicNet will have to pay more than Napster's base fee.
"Napster is a great way to discover new music and is an exciting model for the future," producer/DJ Oakenfold said in a statement released by the company. "It puts the focus back on the music itself rather than the creative packaging or clever marketing. It is good that it has at long last become legitimate and the artists and their labels will get paid."
One potential obstacle to the indie-label deal is the issue of music publishing rights, Barry said. Napster is still trying to reach a deal with the publishers who control the rights to most popular songs. Publishers need to be compensated separately from record companies, who control the rights to recordings rather than the compositions that make them possible.
Barry said Napster will not launch its new service until it reaches a deal with publishers.
Tuesday's deal follows an appeals court's refusal on Monday to reconsider its ruling that Napster violated copyright laws (see "Appeals Court Ruling Means Napster Filters Stay Put").
Also on Monday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences the organization behind the Academy Awards became the latest organization to file a copyright infringement suit against Napster.
The academy's lawsuit accuses Napster of allowing users to share recordings of live performances from recent Academy Awards ceremonies, including Björk's "I've Seen It All" and Bob Dylan's "Things Have Changed," according to academy lawyer David Quinto.
A Napster spokesperson had no comment on the lawsuit.
(For complete coverage of online music, check out Sonicnet Music News' "Napster Watch.")