In a bid to tempt users away from iTunes, Napster is to offer a free MP3 player to subscribers. A 512MB SanDisk player worth around £30 will be given to customers who take out a three-month subscription to the 'Napster to Go' service at £14.95 a month.
Leanne Sharman, Napster's UK general manager, quoted in The Sunday Times, drew parallels with the mobile phone market, where handsets have been offered free as part of a monthly subscription deal.
"The mobile industry is more mature than ours but it began as a pay-as-you-go business reliant on handset sales," she said. "Now it's subscription that drives the business and allows the network carriers to give away new phones. This is the model for the future of the digital-music industry, where content is king and MP3 players are disposable."
Sharman added that the current popularity of the iPod and iTunes would prove to be transitory.
"Younger consumers are very fickle. You cannot have loyalty to a particular brand in that environment. More and more of the younger audience are buying flash-based MP3 players for £30 to £50 – [devices that are] more disposable than a £250 iPod."
Napster to Go currently only allows customers to 'rent' songs from a two-million-strong library, those songs becoming unavailable once a subscription is cancelled.