With the University having officially signed a contract to offer free Napster for students for another year, the online music provider plans to step up marketing and publicity at GW.
Alexa Kim, executive director of Information Systems and Services Technology Services, said that a gift from an anonymous donor allowed the University to continue to offer the service for another year. But with less than half of all students using the online music library last year, completing the contract, which was signed in the beginning of August, was not a high priority.
“It was a priority, but it wasn’t in the top 10,” Kim said. “I think the Napster service wasn’t well-reviewed and only about a third of the students took their free subscription last year.”
“It was not justifying enough money to take money away from another student service, so we needed to find a legal donor,” she added.
Although the program may not have been used by the majority of the student body, Kim said it is still an effective tool in promoting legal downloading. Napster and GW have said they are concerned with illegal downloading after the Recording Industry Association of America filed suits against three GW students who illegally downloaded music from filesharing networks in 2004. The recording industry trade group settled with the students, averting the need for trials.
GW’s Napster subscription is offered at a 70 percent discounted rate, and students can listen to music online for free but must pay to transfer it to CDs or MP3 players.
Avery Kotler, senior director of business and legal affairs at Napster, said that a relatively low usage rate at GW may have been due to focusing on signing an initial deal for the 2004-2005 school year and not concentrating on advertising.
“We felt like we could have done a better job promoting (Napster) on campus,” Kotler said. “This year we have a marketing person who will be more engaged with promoting the program.”
He added that Napster is not sure of exactly what sort of marketing program they will feature at GW, but said it may include posters, contests and giveaways and a concert sponsorship.
“Basically we want to do things geared at letting people know it’s there,” he said.
Kotler said that while only about a third of the GW student body used the program, records show that a user would listen to about an hour’s worth of music every day, an amount he called significant.
“There aren’t many things a university provides that a student uses that much,” Kotler said.
But he said that he believes Napster, which is utilized by up to 70 percent of students at some of the 15 schools that offer the program around the country, can double its use among GW students.
Kim said that this year, students will need to obtain a new promotional code to access the service for the 2005-2006 school year. She said that along with more marketing, Napster will also feature an “updated look” that will make it more appealing for students to use.
While the music provider unveiled its “Napster-to-Go” service earlier this year, the function that allows users to upload music directly to a portable device or mp3 player will only be available for a $5 monthly cost.
Students’ free subscriptions begin on Sept. 1 and run until May 31, 2006. The service can be obtained at gwired.gwu.edu/legalmusic.