Napster Inc. begins selling MP3s today, a move the online music service hopes will lure iPod users and turn around Napster's sliding fortunes.
The West Hollywood-based company is the latest to make the switch to the unrestricted file format, which makes tracks compatible with nearly any music player or other device.
"It is really the beginning of a level playing field, which I think is essential for Napster, but also for the health of the digital music business in general," said Chris Gorog, Napster's chairman.
Tracks downloaded as part of Napster's subscription service will continue to have copyright restrictions.
For much of the decade, major record labels refused to license their music for downloading as MP3s. But steep annual declines in CD sales and the growing dominance of Apple Inc.'s iPod music players and iTunes Music Store led the labels to ease that position last year to remain competitive.
Amazon.com is the only other retailer offering MP3 downloads from all the major record labels.
Napster is pricing music at 99 cents each, with full-album downloads starting at $9.95. The company hopes the new service will boost subscribers of its unlimited package, which stood at about 760,000 as of March 31.
Shares of Napster rose a penny Monday to $1.54.