Napster tunes into Canada post-U.K.

Puretracks gains rival; data cheaper to obtain than U.S.

Online musicstore Napster is continuing its rapid international expansion, opening in Canada just a week after it launched its first international affiliate in the U.K.

Company has previously said it would open in Europe and north of the border sometime this summer. Quicker-than-expected launches indicate a strong desire to stay ahead of U.S. competitors like iTunes and MusicNet, which have said they will soon expand internationally as well.

Napster’s only competitor for legal music downloads in Canada will be Puretracks.com, which debuted late last year. At launch, Napster’s subscription service will be the only unlimited Canuck music streaming offered.

Unlike the U.K., where Napster’s offering is substantially more expensive than in the U.S, musicstore will be significantly cheaper in Canada, where track downloads will be C$1.19 (87¢), compared with 99¢ in the U.S., and the subscription service will be $7.26 against $9.95 in the States.

It’s still more expensive than Puretracks, though, which charges 72¢ per track.

Offerings of the Canadian musicstore will be smaller, however, with more than 300,000 tracks compared with over 700,000 in the U.S.

To promote its Canadian launch, Napster signed a multiyear marketing alliance with beer company Molson. Deal is similar to Napster’s marketing partnership with Heineken in the U.S.

In a potential challenge to Napster’s new affiliate, a Canadian court ruled last month that digital music downloads from peer-to-peer services are legal. For as long as that ruling stands, Napster faces legal competition from free music, unlike in the U.S. (Daily Variety, April 2).

Launching overseas ahead of its U.S. competitors may help give Napster an advantage in those markets as it ranks a distant second in the U.S. behind iTunes, which was the first American Internet musicstore.