Napster puts Europe in its sights

Now that its legal troubles are behind it, Napster wants to team up with European firms to boost its legal music download service

Napster has hired its first Europe-based executive as part of a drive to expand into the lucrative European market. The appointment of Leanne Sharman, a former vice president of sales and marketing at MP3.com, was announced on Friday.

Precise details of Sharman's role weren't available, but as Napster's first European executive she will be spearheading the company's expansion into Europe. The European market is currently being eyed by several big US online music retailers.

"We can't say a great deal at this stage," admitted a Napster spokesman. "Leanne's appointment is in response to the tremendous demand for Napster's services that we have seen from Europe."

The spokesman explained that Napster want to have a senior player based in Europe to create partnerships with EU-based companies. Napster won't name any likely partners at this stage, but says that it's keen to look at a wide range of possible brand tie-ins.

Napster was relaunched as a legal online music service last autumn. Its high-profile battles with the traditional music industry ended with Napster filing for bankruptcy protection in June 2002, and some of its assets were then snapped up by CD-burning software firm Roxio.

Despite competition from services such as Apple's ITunes and RealNetworks' Rhapsody, the new Napster is understood to be doing well. It sells individual music tracks for 99 cents, and albums for $9.99 (roughly 55p and £5.50 respectively), on top of a free service that lets users view music videos and download short audio clips, and a premium service for $9.99 per month.

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