Many (especially those who have been on the Internet longer) will know the word Napster, like that application and P2P network created by Sean Parker that allowed you to download music simply with the Internet connection. We are talking about the beginning of the century. The one that caused Metallica’s fierce war against Red.
Well, as we know, a few days ago Napster came back to the fore, but as a music streaming service that a priori is legal and lawful. And from Genbeta we have decided to test it thoroughly so that you know if it is worth taking a look or not.
From VHS to STREAMING everywhere
At first sight
It is striking how similar it is to Rhapsody, the service that is available in the United States operated by the company of the same name and owned by Napster. It’s not by chance: Napster really looks like the European version of Rhapsody. If you know Rhapsody you will already know practically everything that I am going to tell in this article.
The image that you can see heading this section corresponds to a screenshot of the page with which Napster receives us as soon as we log in with our account. A list of featured albums, a list of “new content” (I’ll talk more quietly about this later) and a series of popular songs on the service. On the right, the player and what they call the “mixer” (what others call a “play queue”), which we can save as a new playlist. And that’s it.
Above we can also see, in addition to a search engine, two links to the four main sections that make up the service; “Browse”, “Featured”, “My Music” and “Radio”. Let’s review each of them.
- Examine: Napster offers us a small guide to featured albums of each genre, and in the list we can select a specific one and obtain information such as artists who play that type of music, albums published by them, featured songs, or listen to the radio of that genre. We can also see featured content related to it.
- Outstanding offers a selection of homegrown content such as expertly crafted playlists and articles, or videos featuring artists.
- The eyelash My music allows us to organize our own library, but if we open it after listening to a little music we will see that it automatically collects information about the songs and albums we listen to, obtaining statistics. We will come back to it later.
- And, of course, Napster also has Radio. It allows us to generate radio stations from artists, listen to stations selected by experts and check which channels are popular with users of the service.
Searching and listening to songs
We put ourselves in a situation. We want to hear an album. We can simply write it in the search engine at the top right, and if it is in the service it will be auto-completed, as you can see in the upper screenshot. Clicking on it will take us to the page that contains the rest of the album information (such as the songs it contains), as well as a button to play it and another that triggers a contextual menu.
Through this contextual menu we can add the album to the mixer (that is, glue it to play after everything that has already been added), add it to our music library, add it to a playlist or share it on social networks (with buttons that we already know and of those we know, the ones that trigger a popup; there is hardly any social integration within Napster).
Each genre, album, artist and song has its own URL that we can share; This is the album I searched for.
As you would expect (and as I said before), we have an always visible player on the right. It is basic, allowing us to advance the song, go back, pause it, find a specific point within the song, and make the songs play randomly or in a loop. We can also add the song that is playing to our “Favorites” list, which would add it to another section of our profile. However, although the player is basic, it is more than enough.
Obviously, I have tried playing music using Napster, and the experience was “almost” satisfactory. I experienced a couple of cuts, but nothing major. The service has more serious problems than some outages when streaming music.
What makes it different: curation, own content
Napster’s bet goes through a section a bit unpopulated at the moment, but it is to be expected that it will continue to be updated as the weeks go by. Clicking on the “Featured” tab on the top bar will take us to a page with videos, articles and playlists.
Ultimately it is about expert generated content which makes it easy to discover new music. These articles and lists are also organized according to genre, so that we can find the content that seems most relevant to us (if we are folkies, we may not be interested in electronic music news).
And the social? Fine, thanks
Napster, like every service launched in 2013, has some kind of integration with the social networks that we all use. Specifically, it is well integrated with Facebook, obtaining the data from our profile if we link them, and publishing the songs we listen to on the social network founded by Zuckerberg. These, it is assumed, would appear in the section of the application itself within our profile. In mine, the truth, they have not appeared.
It also has its own social section. Each user has their own profile with a personalized URL and a series of sections: a profile with featured artists and listening history, a list of followers, another of favorite songs, the user’s library, and the playlists. I have not found an option for temporarily listen to songs without them being published on our profile. What we can do is hide our profile.
Sure many users will appreciate not being introduced to the bottom of their throats with the social, being able to use Napster without the need for more than an email account and the password we choose.
Napster outside our computer
Napster, on our computer, it works like a Web Application, within our browser (apparently using Flash to play the music; nothing new under the sun). But, in addition, it is available for different mobile devices.
They have launched applications for iPhone, Android phones, iPad, Android tablets, and it also integrates with Sonos equipment and with cars made by BMW and Mini. It is not as ubiquitous as Deezer or Spotify could be, but it must be recognized that having the applications ready from launch is a plus. I imagine that little by little clients will be launched for other mobile platforms, smart TV and others.
What should improve?
Napster is a young service and as such it still has some room for improvement.
- Your catalog. It has to grow a lot. It’s funny: there are discs that are not on Spotify and discs that are on Spotify are not here.
- How it is organized, and the recommendation system. It can’t be that I put on a radio station based on Stravaganzza (defined by Wikipedia as “gothic metal” or “progressive metal”) and I immediately get the Rolling Stones. Hope it learns from users.
- More mobile platforms. Windows Phone, BB10, maybe Firefox OS. A Windows 8 client would also be appreciated. Rhapsody is on more platforms; I don’t think it took them too much trouble to build the Napster applications.
- The user experience. I don’t know about you, but the interface seems very “from the past decade” to me. Details such as that on my screen (full HD, nothing special) see huge margins on each side of the screen makes me consider using other services with better interfaces.
Bottom line: some good ideas, a long way to go
Napster arrives in 2013 in a market that already has many contenders, some of whom have been fighting for many years (Deezer, for example), and some of whom have a financial muscle that others envy (Google, ahem, ahem). Soon more names come to mind like Rdio, also integrated into Twitter #music.
It should also be borne in mind that there is no free Napster modality (only a 30-day trial period) and its price is still similar to that of the competition (€ 9.95 / month). If I’m honest, I see no reason why, right now, a user leaves Spotify (to say the name of the most relevant) and sign up for Napster.
I’m not saying that Napster is late, but I consider it obvious that they are going to have to fight a lot to differentiate themselves and not become just another clone of what we can already enjoy.
Official site | Napster In Genbeta | Google Play Music All Access, face to face with the competition