If you routinely buy at least five songs per month, here's good news from Napster: A new subscription plan nets you five DRM-free MP3 downloads and unlimited streaming for just $5 monthly. In other words, it's like buying the songs you were buying anyway and getting unlimited streaming for free.
If that sounds vaguely familiar, it's because Microsoft recently added 10 "permanent" downloads to its $14.99 per month Zune Pass subscription. Obviously, the Zune plan is costlier, though it does include unlimited "temporary" downloads to your desktop or Zune player, not just streaming.
Best Buy-owned Napster still offers a $14.95 per month To Go plan for folks who want to stuff their portable players or cell phones with music, though it's unclear whether that plan has been upgraded to include the five MP3 downloads.
Anyway, back to the $5 deal. To me it's a no-brainer as I typically buy a handful of tracks from Amazon each month. For the same money I get unrestricted access to Napster's 7 million-plus song library, along with 60 commercial-free radio stations and 1,400-plus prefab playlists.
The truth is, I spend most of my day at a desk, so I'm actually more interested in the streaming than the downloads. As much as I despise all things subscription, this is too good to pass up. Agree? Disagree? I'm all ears.
SIDE DEAL No. 1: While we're on the subject of music services, Rhapsody is offering a free, no-strings attached MP3 download every day of the week. Recent offerings included a track from Green Day's new album, a Bon Jovi classic, and the latest Lady GaGa single. It kind of makes iTunes' obscure-freebie-of-the-week seem downright, well, weak.
SIDE DEAL No. 2: If you're in the market for an MP3 player to go with Napster, Rhapsody, or whatever, Creative has the 8GB Creative Zen (refurbished) for $64.99--far and away the best price I've seen yet on that model.