Anyone keeping abreast of conversations on this forum about the legitimacy of VCL (Voluntary Collective Licensing) will be interested to learn that Napster To Go was launched a few weeks back and CNET is offering a business model comparison between it and Apple’s iTunes Music Store. Actually, the article is less of a business case and more of a confession from a diehard iPodder that Napster is on to something with its subscription based service.

In brief, for $15 per month ($14.95) a Napster subscriber has access to nearly all 1.3 million tracks in Napster’s library.  That subscriber can fill his/her mp3 player (and up to two others) over and over again at his/her whim.  However, there are some loops.  A few tracks in Napster’s library are not available to monthy subscribers and you must re-sync your mp3 player at least once per month to “renew” your subscription.  If you don’t sync, the tracks go by-by.  Also, if you wish to burn a CD from your subscriber tracks you must pay per song (which I believe still costs $.99).  And here’s the big crutch, you can’t use an iPod with the service.

Obviously Napster’s subscription based service bares resemblance to VCL in a number of ways.  Rumor has it that Apple is currently planning a retaliatory service so fans of its ever-popular iPod will have the best of both worlds.  With both the giants in music downloading paying in it comes as no surprise that the majors are falling behind subscription based services in rows.  I mean come on, Apple was/is the savoir of their industry.

“The record industry is lobbying hard to make subscription services the next phase in the digital revolution.”

It’s not $5 per month, it’s not applied by ISPs, but subscription based models are obviously considered a viable business option by numerous industry players.  In other words, maybe VCL isn’t as far fetched as critics think.