The New Napster: Even Better Than the Old Napster?

Ben Stegner 26-09-2016

When you consider how much software has been released during the short history of computing A Brief History of Computers That Changed the World You can spend years delving into the history of the computer. There are tons of inventions, tons of books about them – and that’s before you start getting into the finger-pointing that inevitably occurs when... Read More , it’s amazing how many programs are still in use. We previously took a trip to the past to look at some older Windows programs that are still alive today 8 Mostly Forgotten Windows Programs Still Around Today Many programs that were once popular have faded into obscurity. You might be surprised which ancient software you can still download in 2016. Read More . We found that Napster is still, surprisingly, alive and kicking.


The old Napster was once completely illegal; its ultimate demise was one of a handful of tech lawsuits that shaped the modern web 5 Incredible Tech Lawsuits That Shaped the Digital World Lawsuits play an important role in shaping the direction of technological developments, even in the world of software. Here are a few cases that were so important, we're still feeling the effects today. Read More . However, the Napster that you can visit today is a completely different service, albeit with the same name.

Confused yet? Let’s take a look back at the history of Napster to find out how modern Napster holds up against classic Napster and other similar services.

A Brief History Lesson

Napster hit the scene in the summer of 1999, but it wasn’t the first downloading service of its kind. What made Napster stand out was its focus on MP3s; it was designed as a platform for users of any technical ability to share and find new music. With the social aspects of music 3 Social Music Networks to Discover & Share New Tunes Read More as strong then as they are now, it was a fun activity to recommend music to others and see what was trending on Napster.

Napster was insanely popular. At one point, over half of the traffic on some college campuses was going towards Napster MP3 usage. Napster kicked off another major change in the music industry, signalling the end of album-oriented music listening. No longer did you have to buy an entire record or cassette to get some music from an artist; you could simply download any track you liked The Internet Music Guide for the Audiophile We have uncovered the biggest sites for music fans in several categories. Whether you want to buy an album, stream songs, discover new music, or just learn more, these sites have it all. Read More as a sampler.


Napster’s Metallica Moment

The service continued to grow until a then-unreleased-to-the-public version of “I Disappear” by Metallica was discovered by the band on Napster. The members of Metallica weren’t happy with their music not only being leaked to the public early, but also being widely available for free. They and other artists started suing, and in mid-2001, Napster closed its doors.

Shortly after the service was forced to cease operations, Napster attempted to convert itself into a legal service but it failed to get off the ground. Napster went bankrupt in 2002; shortly after, Roxio bought the brand (its recognizable power 10 Famous Technology Brands & Terms Explained Did you ever wonder where Bluetooth got its funny name? Once this question had surfaced, I started pondering on many other brand names and computer terms. Were the inventors of Apache native Americans? What has... Read More was still valuable), and in 2008 Best Buy took it over.

The fun didn’t stop there, however — in 2011 another music service, Rhapsody, purchased the Napster assets from Best Buy and merged them into its own service. Earlier this year, Rhapsody confused everyone by killing off the long-running Rhapsody name and renaming itself Napster.

Thus, in essence, the Napster of today and the Napster of yesteryear are two different services, though you can trace the evolution from the old one to the new one. Just this year, Napster joined the long list of music streaming services Which Is The Best Mobile Music Streaming Service? Online radio is picking up steam now that there’s a good bit of competition driving the technology. You might be familiar with services like Pandora and Spotify, but now that you can stream music on-the-go... Read More — so, how does it fare?


Everything You Need to Know About the New Napster

Let’s look at the service today and what it has to offer.

Signing Up

The new Napster service obviously does away with the illegal dealings of its predecessor by charging money for access. There are two plans to choose from, which is not the case with most other streaming services (Spotify dropped its mid-tier Unlimited plan several years ago).

The cheaper option is unRadio, which is $5/month after a 14-day free trial. It gets you personalized radio with unlimited skips, high-quality streaming on desktop and mobile with no ads, and the ability to download up to 25 songs for offline listening.

Premier, which is the full service Napster advertises and offers a 30-day free trial for, is $10/month and includes all the above. In addition, you’ll get unlimited access to everything in the catalog, streaming capabilities for home audio devices, access to Napster Kids (see below), and a family plan Save on Premium Subscriptions With These 9 Shareable Accounts Premium subscription services are great, but the costs add up fast. Here are 9 services you can share to get the most for your money. Read More similar to other services. With this plan, $15/month brings in up to five users, each with completely separate accounts.


Napster includes two pricing options that competitors don’t. You can opt to pay for your Premium subscription annually, which drops the price to $8/month. Another plan, the Premier +1, ups the price to $15/month and lets you stream in two places at the same time.

Using Napster

Napster offers a native Windows program as well as a Modern app Desktop vs. Microsoft Store Apps: Which Should You Download? Should you get your Windows apps from the Microsoft Store, or use traditional desktop programs? Here are the main differences. Read More , but you’re best off sticking with the web app. The Windows desktop program, while functional, is less sleek than the web interface and features less images than the web, making it kind of boring. The Modern app has mediocre reviews, so just save the Napster site to your taskbar How to Pin Websites From Any Browser to the Windows Taskbar You can pin more than desktop programs to your taskbar. Here's how to pin any site for instant access. Read More and use it just like a regular program.

As soon as you launch Napster, you’ll find that it’s designed to provide an experience tailored to your musical tastes Discover New Music by Mapping Musical Genres & Artists Mapping music isn't as bizarre as it may at first sound. In the same way locations can be mapped out, so can music genres and artists, with one style feeding into the next, one band... Read More . Before you jump into the music, you’re asked for your top three genres and 10 favorite artists. These are used to create playlists full of music you like right away, giving you something to listen to without having to search around.

The service offers a lot to choose from right from the start. Your homepage includes recent playlists and albums you’ve listened to, along with new releases Don't Stop The Music: 4 Ways To Set Up Alerts For New Album Releases There was a time when you could keep track of new music releases by checking in at your local record store, but we live in a different world now. How do you keep track now? Read More and popular tracks. If those aren’t what you want, you can browse by genre or labels — identifiers such as Workout and Decades can help you find something awesome that doesn’t fit into a traditional genre.


Listen How You Like

Napster lets you listen to music in any way you like. You can search for an artist and pick out one of their albums (or search by record label, unique to Napster), open a playlist created by another user, or make an on-the-fly mix using the Mixer. The Mixer, one of Napster’s best features, is an ever-present bar on the side of the screen that shows you what’s coming up next, as well as allowing you to control the flow of music at all times.

Started a radio station Which Internet Radio Sites Have the Best User Experience in the Browser? Exploring the web players for various Internet radio services to see which ones offer the best experience in the browser. What good is a great radio selection if the player is frustrating to use? Read More and see a track you don’t like? Remove it. Listening to an album and want to play a certain track when the album is over? Drag it in and add it to the queue, or clear it at any time if you want a fresh start.

The Endless Playback feature is pretty sweet, as it plays tracks inspired by your recent listening after your Mixer has been depleted. This is a great way to accidentally discover something new, or let the music flow during a party.

A Music Lover’s Delight

The music discovery 6 Fantastic Ways To Discover Cool Music You've Never Heard Before If you’re a music lover, you’re familiar with the constant need to discover new music. You already know lots of good music you like, but the thirst for more is unstoppable. There’s lots of good... Read More features of Napster don’t stop there. While not present on every artist, most feature similar artists for you to peruse. There’s also a “Listeners” list that shows you Napster users who have listened to that artist recently, along with other recent plays by them. This is a great way to discover someone who has a similar taste in music to you and find something new you might not have previously known about.

Those who love music information will appreciate the exact release date on most albums, along with brief descriptions/reviews. These let newcomers to an artist read a littl about their records and find out which one is the best to start with. Top Tracks for each artist also allow you to jump right in with an artist’s biggest tracks.

Categorizing music is a breeze. At any time, you’re able to Favorite a track, jump to the artist or album you’re listening to, or save the music to your Library, which acts like Spotify’s Your Music feature Spotify Your Music Collection: The End Of iTunes Spotify is no longer content to just compete with radio, now they're competing with the idea of even owning music. Read More . This makes it easy to keep track of everything you want to listen to.

Features Galore

A few more features round out Napster’s selection: the Radio allows you to build stations around any genre, artist, or song, and even lets you adjust the variety present in the mix. Listening History provides a nice breadcrumb trail so you can find that weird track you listened to yesterday.

Overall, the web app provides a great interface that feels modern and responsive, great options for finding, saving, and sharing music, the excellent Mixer that keeps you in control, and a consistent experience.

Of course, if you’re paying for a premium service Get the Most for Your Money: 8 Apps Worth Paying For Not all app subscriptions are worth the money, but these eight could end up saving you time, money, and effort in the long run. Read More , you probably want to take your music on the go, too. Which is where Napster’s mobile app comes in.

Napster Mobile

Napster’s mobile apps include most of the same features and ways of accessing music as the desktop version, so there’s no need to discuss details on those. However, the mobile app does feature some great tools for when you’re on the go.

Of course, you’re able to download as much music as you like for offline listening, helping you to reduce your data usage Saving Mobile Data: 5 Clever Ways To Reduce Data Usage If you’re on a limited mobile data plan, you may find opening your bill to be harrowing experience. Is there an overage charge? How much? And why was there so much data used? While the... Read More in the process. Napster offers a Downloads tab in the Your Music section that shows you all playlists, albums, and artists that you have offline content saved for.

If you put the app in Offline mode or use it while in Airplane mode What Is Airplane Mode on iPhone? Everything You Need to Know What is Airplane Mode on iPhone? We explain what Airplane Mode does, when you should use it, and how it comes in handy. Read More , the app only shows your offline content. This is a great approach to managing saved tracks and is much better than how Spotify handles it by forcing you to hunt for your offline music manually.

Handing Back Control

The settings give you plenty of control over mobile-specific features. You can choose between three levels of music quality How Audio Compression Works, and Can You Really Tell the Difference? In this article, we'll take a look at how music compression works, and whether it has any real effect on how your music actually sounds. Read More for both streaming and downloads, and choose to always use high quality when on Wi-Fi. By default, the app will also download every song you add to your Favorites, giving you an easy way to make a megamix for offline use.

You can also enable a sleep timer, which lets you play music for a certain amount of time before it shuts off. This is great for nighttime listening, as it ensures that music isn’t playing for hours after you fall asleep.

The app features lockscreen controls as expected, and the Now Playing screen is great, as it allows you to view the album art while also giving you full control to share the track, add it to playlists, or jump to the album it’s from. Another neat feature is the ability to add shortcuts to your device’s home screen that jump right to an album or playlist, giving you instant access to your favorite tunes.

An Auto Mode for Driving

Finally, the app features an Auto mode designed for use when driving. Of course, you should never use your phone while operating a vehicle, as it distracts you and could lead to serious injury or death. This mode allows you to quickly control the music while stopped without having to navigate a bunch of menus.

Auto mode holds just a few buttons that allow you to jump into recently played playlists or albums, your favorite tracks, or new featured music with just a tap. You sacrifice control of exactly what’s playing, but the simple interface removes temptation 4 Useful, Safe Android Apps You Can Use In Your Car Using your phone while driving is dangerous! Stay safe with these hands-free techniques for Android. Read More to fiddle with the mix.

Really, the only glaring weakness of the mobile Napster app is the inability to control music being played on your desktop from your phone and vice-versa. Trying to play music on your phone while streaming on another device will cause the first one to stop, unless you have the Premier +1 plan as discussed earlier.

Other Features Worth Mentioning

A few other facets of Napster are worth discussing. While Napster is of course available for the devices you’d expect, it also allows you to stream from your Wii U, Sonos, Denon, and/or Chromecast. As Spotify is available on the PlayStation 4, having Napster available on the Wii U makes it a great option if that system is your media center Which Game Consoles Can You Use as a Media Center? Looking at Microsoft and Sony's next generation offerings, it seems that bringing video, TV, music and your photo collection (and probably social networking) into the mix of games and achievement unlocking is now part and... Read More of choice.

Napster Kids

The second unique feature is Napster Kids, which lets parents control the music that their kids listen to while also giving the children choices of what they want to hear. While using the desktop or mobile app, parents can select an album, playlist, or song to add to the Kids list.

Then, in the mobile app, enabling Kids mode brings you to a simplified interface that lets kids choose to listen to music approved by their parents. This mode also includes kid-friendly playlists 5 Top Sites To Download Free Kids Music That You'll Love If you've got kids, you've no doubt thought about how you might be able to increase the size of their music collection for free. I mean, who wants to listen to the same CD of... Read More that are always accessible, like Kidz Bop or children’s move soundtracks. It’s a great way to keep your kids from listening to explicit music while still being able to recommend music to them. You can easily add or remove music from the Kids list at any time.

The only problem here is that when tapping the X to jump out of Kids mode, the app says to “Drag the circle to the southeast corner” or another direction. Only the youngest of children will be unable to do this, and even they should eventually figure it out. It would be nice to have a PIN code protecting Kids mode so it isn’t easy to exit.

A Decent Music Selection

The final aspect of Napster to discuss is the music selection. It’s mostly good news — you’ll be able to find pretty much any music on the service you’d like. We didn’t find any major artists missing on Napster that aren’t already on other services. Taylor Swift, who made a bad decision pulling her music from Spotify Why Taylor Swift Is Wrong About Spotify In the past week Taylor Swift has pulled her music from Spotify, inspired countless song-pun laden headlines and reignited the debate about streaming music services. Read More , notably has her older albums present on Napster. Her newest offering, 1989, is absent, however.

Of course, your mileage may vary based on your exact taste in music, but we don’t see any glaring flaws in Napster’s catalog.

Is the New Napster Worth Using?

With so many other music streaming services offering a comparable experience at the same cost, does the new Napsterdo enough to warrant trying it out? We think so.

Napster’s web application is a treat thanks to its ever-present and mutable Mixer, the ease of finding new music, and logical ways to categorize music. The mobile app is well built, featuring a simple Offline mode, useful Auto mode, and all the other features you’d expect in a mobile music app.

To sum up, Napster is a great choice for you if:

Napster doesn’t have any glaring downsides when compared to the other big services, aside from not being able to control music playing on your desktop from your phone. It’s also not built into the OS like Apple Music is for iPhones or Google Music is for Android phones, which might be a deal-breaker for some.

Napster Is Worth a Second Look

You probably shouldn’t drop your current music streaming service for Napster, but it does a lot right, has a few unique features, and is definitely worth a look for music lovers. It’s a heck of a lot better value than the disappointing SoundCloud Go Is SoundCloud Go Worth It? Everything You Need to Know SoundCloud Go is a new premium music streaming service designed to compete with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, but is it worth paying for? Read More , and while you’re not getting music for free as you did with the original Napster (because it was enabling piracy), it shows that the Napster name still holds some weight.

Napster is just a small part in the evolution of music consumption The Evolution of Music Consumption: How We Got Here The rise of the iPod, the music-playing mobile phone, and a number of streaming media platforms all point toward a single, simple idea: music is important. But how did we get here? Read More . Check out the full story for even more on how we got to where we are today.

Do you have memories of using the old Napster? Have you tried the new Napster yet? What do you think of either or both? And how they compare? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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  1. Onar
    May 25, 2018 at 6:08 am

    It is also Worth mentioning that Napster currently is the music service that pays the artists the most per play.

  2. L2
    February 4, 2018 at 9:23 am

    I played with Napster on my very first computer back in 1997 or 98 -- the dastardly AOL dialup subscription that wouldn't let you ever, ever cancel your service without help from your bank, but I digress ... I downloaded one song from Sweet Honey in the Rock, and uploaded one album to the Universe -- Charlie Musselwhite who I think needed some sharing anyway so the younger generation would be exposed to his music. Forgive me Lord, I have sinned!

    So when I saw Napster in the Google Playstore a few months ago it made me laugh, and of course I had to download it to check it out. I'm not quitting my Slacker subscription but am giving Napster a year to play with, and it gives me a way to find music I have no idea about and hear different genres than my usual. It is a little buggy for me trying to make sense of my playlists, but it has a major 'Fun Factor' for me that is well worth paying for.

    A nice surprise also is that Napster lets me save offline music to more than one device at the same time, I have it on three and am not sure if that is the limit, allowing even more ease of having offline music to save using my data plan (you can save different music to different devices). I think having BOTH Slacker and Napster is worth it in this new world of not having to 'own' our music selections to enjoy them.

    I am still hooked on Pandora my first love, and Pandora Plus gives some offline content to play too. I am faced with cancelling or renewing my one-year subscription this month and I am afraid Napster will make me finally let Pandora go. Or I could upgrade to Pandora Premium ... ... too ... ...

    • Ben Stegner
      February 5, 2018 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience with Napster! I never used the service back in its "glory days" but I'm in a similar boat as you -- I'm so entrenched in Spotify that switching would be a big hassle!

  3. LB
    August 15, 2017 at 12:52 am

    And yet sadly, their mp3 player (that you are FORCED to use) will not even fade between songs in a playlist. Pretty basic function if you ask me. If they can't create that function, then allow me to play my downloaded files on Windows Media Player who has apparently surpassed Napster in functionality of it's player. Napster is a joke.

    • Janet Aldrich
      March 7, 2019 at 3:52 pm

      If that's your biggest complaint about Napster, then you need to rethink things a little.

      I've used Napster (2) since it was Rhapsody. Only a limited number of songs have been missing when I search. I have 50 or so playlists, some of which I've had for more than 10 years. For the price, you can't beat Napster.