Napster shrinking

Music files down by 80%; users down by 32%

NEW YORK — As file-sharing service Napster continues to filter songs from its servers, the number of files available for trade on the hard drive of the average Napster user has plummeted by 80% in the past month, according to data collected by media research firm Webnoize.

Napster users offered up an average of 220 music files each as recently as late March, according to Webnoize senior analyst Matt Bailey. By the end of April, however, that number had shrunk to just 37.

At the same time, the number of users on the system at any one time has also tumbled — though not nearly as drastically. In February, there were an average of 1.57 million Napster users active at any given moment; as of last month, that number has fallen 32% to 1.07 million, Bailey said.

Brand loyalty remains

The analyst cited several factors accounting for the discrepancy between the two drops, including the elimination of redundant copies of a single song, the brand loyalty that makes Napster users reluctant to give up on their favorite service and the lack of a suitable alternative.

“A lot of services that have been touted as Napster replacements haven’t really lived up to their billing,” he explained. “One of the biggest problems is that they’ve had trouble scaling up to meet the incoming demand.”

Napster’s decline began in earnest after it started filtering out song files that the record industry identified as infringing on their copyrights, in compliance with an injunction issued by San Francisco District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in February.

Still arguing

Napster and the major labels, as represented by the Recording Industry Assn. of America, have since bickered furiously over the scope of the injunction and the thoroughness of Napster’s compliance. Last week, Patel recommended that the parties seek clarification from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who instructed Patel to craft the injunction in the first place.

Bailey said that although the filtering to date appears to have gutted the Napster system, users still downloaded 1.59 billion song files from the network in April, which helps to explain the RIAA’s continued vigilance.

“1.59 billion downloads is still a pretty hefty number,” Bailey said. “The RIAA will definitely want to see that reduced further.”