AOL has named Napster as the exclusive supplier of subscription music for its AOL Music site in the US, and plans to migrate all 350,000 paid accounts away from the existing service, AOL Music Now, over the next 60 days.
Unless they opt out of the move, existing Music Now customers will be able to use the Napster service for the same fee they pay now, and their existing login and payment details and any prepaid credits will be retained, AOL said.
Napster and Music Now both offer subscriptions to a library of millions of music tracks, which can only be listened to as long as the user continues to pay the monthly fee. They also offer the option to purchase individual tracks, which can still be played after the subscription ends. Both services use Microsoft's Windows Media DRM (digital rights management) to impose these restrictions on users, who must use Windows Media Player on a PC, or a compatible digital music player, to listen to the songs.
This is not the first time AOL has replaced its subscription music platform. In 2005, it bought Music Now from Circuit City Stores and rebranded it AOL Music Now, replacing an existing service, MusicNet@AOL.
Until Thursday, Music Now offered subscription access to 2.5 million tracks for US$9.95 a month, or individual tracks for purchase at $0.99. Visitors to the Music Now site are now redirected to Napster.
As part of its deal with Napster, AOL will promote the service with links from its free music site AOL Music.
Napster sees the deal as a way to grow its subscriber base, and said it would make it the second largest digital music service by revenue.