Napster needs to do the math again

See Napster’s Super Bowl ads? Think you’ll remember them three weeks from now? Right.
Ashlee Vance dissects Napster’s supposed costs, which do not take in to account the fact that most people’s songs on their iPods are not from the iTunes Music Store:

From where we sit, the math doesn’t break down terribly well in Napster’s favor.

Let’s take a look at consumer A. This consumer goes to and does a search for Creative – one of the Napster supported music device makers – and picks up a 20GB player for $249.99. Let’s assume he keeps the device for three years, paying Napster all the time. That’s $538 for the Napster service, bringing the three-year total to $788.19.

Consumer B types iPod into the search engine and finds a 20GB device for $299. Apple doesn’t offer a subscription service, so this customer has to buy songs at the 99 cent rate or at $9.99 per album. Subtracting the price of the iPod from the $788, consumer B would have $489 left over for music. That’s roughly worth 489 songs or 49 albums.

We posit that during this three-year period both Consumer A and Consumer B will actually end up with close to the same number of songs on their devices. Customers do not, as Napster suggests, pay $10,000 to fill their iPods with 10,000 songs just because the capacity is there. They take their existing music, CDs and MP3s, and put that onto the device first, then later add iTunes songs as they go along. A Napster customer would have a similar mix of old music and new downloads.

The big difference here is that after the three years are up, Consumer B has something to show for his investment. He still owns the music. If the Napster customer stops paying for the service, his music is all gone. He’s paying $179 per year to rent music. This isn’t high quality stuff either. It’s DRM (digital rights management)-laced, low bitrate slop.

You could once buy a CD and then play that music on your computer or in your car at will. Hell, you still can. You own it. You can burn an extra copy of the disc in case it gets scratched or pass along the disc to a friend to see if they like it – just like you would with a good book. Five years from now, you will still own the CD. No one can tell you where and when you can play it.

This is not the case in the Napster subscription world. After six years, you’ve tossed away $1,076 for something that barely exists. Forget to pay for a month and watch your music collection disappear. (Not to mention, you’re betting on the fact that Napster will even exist two years from now. At least you know that a year’s subscription to the Wall Street Journal will still work in 12 months time.)
I’m a CD man, myself. I like the versatility of being able to do whatever the heck I want to with the music I purchase. I know it will run aghast of some, but I still use CDs in my Pilot. Most of the time, however, the CD arrives at the phisch bowl, gets opened, ripped to MP3 format in iTunes, and is loaded in to the music library (tunaphisch) and on to the iPod (phischpod). The only tunes I’ve downloaded from the iTMS are the free ones I occasionally will like. That may change a bit with the new Pepsi-iTunes promo, but other than that, I do not see myself purchasing digital music directly from Apple, much less from Napster.
[Via DF.]