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The BBC's Patrick Bartlett
"The music industry generally has been alarmed by Napster's massive success"
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Tuesday, 30 January, 2001, 12:11 GMT
Napster confirms membership charge
Napster chief executive Hank Barry
Hank Barry wants Napster users to subscribe to the service
By BBC News Online's Orla Ryan in Davos

Napster's chief executive Hank Barry has told BBC News Online in an exclusive interview that users will soon be charged a membership fee.

Mr Barry also said royalties would be paid to artists whose material was swapped over the internet with the help of Napster software.

I think that the record companies believe the best way to proceed is to settle the question

Hank Barry, Napster chief executive
Napster is being sued and threatened with closure by all of the world's biggest music publishing groups, but late last year the internet venture signed a deal with German media conglomerate Bertelsmann.

Talks are now on-going with other media groups, including TVT and Edel.

Mr Barry said that details of the size and scope of the membership fee had yet to be finalised.

Rapid growth

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Barry said: "Napster will continue to be an easy site to use and Napster will pay royalties."

There is potentially big business built up out of stuff taken without our consent

Peter Gabriel
When asked when the membership fee would be put in place, he said there was no final schedule. Bertelsmann has indicated that it could be brought in as early as June this year.

Napster's site connects music lovers across the world, allowing them to download digital music tracks from each other's computers free of charge.

The music industry has felt threatened by the rapid growth of the Napster community because they fear music sales will dive and artists will lose out on royalties.

Artists welcome move

Peter Gabriel, one of the artists leading criticism of Napster, has cautiously welcomed the move by the software company to pay royalties.

When asked if he welcomed a move by Napster to charge a membership fee, he told the BBC at Davos:: "I welcome a move by Napster to pay artists."

But he stressed that it was important that artists had a voice in the process. "We would like to be consulted before it is taken and have some say in what is free and what isn't."

"Our fundamental point is no music, no Napster. There is potentially big business built up out of stuff taken without our consent," he said.

Guessing the market

Napster has high hopes for the potential size of its market. Mr Barry said there were 200 million multimedia PCs worldwide with the capability to copy an MP3 file.

Napster's software, meanwhile, had been downloaded and installed 57 million times.

While the average person may have 30 CDs, Mr Barry said hardware with the capability of holding 614 CDs could now be bought for just $150 in the United States.

Napster still faces lawsuits from most of the big record firms. Mr Barry said: "I think that the record companies believe the best way to proceed is to settle the question."

Napster, he said, still hoped for "constructive dialogue" and probably "legislation" to solve the copyright issue.

And Mr Barry maintained that record sales were rising: "If you give people more access to music, they buy more music."

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See also:

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