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Roxio’s guiding light

Web sales climb but still trail Apple's iTunes

Shares in Napster parent company Roxio rose more than 18% on Monday as it announced slightly higher guidance for the current quarter based on stronger-than-expected online music sales, but still lagged far behind the latest figures from Apple’s iTunes.

Company said Napster revenues, which include 99¢-per-track downloads and a $9.95-per-month subscription service, will total $5.5 million in the current quarter. That’s about equal with its performance in the fourth quarter of last year, when it generated $3.6 million in the two months it was available, but above company’s previous guidance of $5 million.

Minimal growth for Napster compares poorly with the latest figures from Apple’s iTunes Music Store, which announced Monday it has sold more than 50 million tracks since launching in April for Mac users and in October for PCs.

Most notably, iTunes’ sales have been accelerating significantly — Internet musicstore is selling 2.5 million songs a week, up from 1.5 million a week in December. That means iTunes is generating nearly as much revenue every two weeks as Napster is each quarter.

Apple’s figures do not include songs downloaded as part of its promotional partnership with Pepsi, in which the soda maker is giving away 100 million songs, for which it is reportedly paying Apple.

Substantial lead over Napster and other competitors such as RealNetworks and MusicMatch may shrink as other big names enter the digital music market later this year, including Virgin and Sony.

Debut of Roxio’s Easy Media Creator 7 digital media editing application also helped that company’s guidance, as it predicted software sales of $26 million this quarter, up from $15.2 million last quarter. Previous guidance was $25 million.

Investors seemed pleased with the news Monday, as Roxio shares closed up 18.22% at $5.06, the company’s first major rally since shares began to decline from above $10 in October.

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