eMusic is to relaunch its subscription digital music service this week with a focus on independent artists.
New co-owner David Pakman told Cnet: "Our notion is to go after the 30 per cent or so of customers who buy things other than major-label music."
According to Pakman, 40 per cent of searches at Napster were for bootlegs, live tracks and other rare material. He is convinced that consumers will be eager to pay for access to live club versions of popular bands' work.
As well as garage bands and little known musicians, the site carries work from big-name artists, including Ray Charles, Big Star, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Moby and Beck.
The new version of the service has been redesigned to help people find their way through the often-confusing independent music world, according to the company. Part of this redesign includes recommendations from music writers and tools that let subscribers see what other listeners have purchased.
Unlike Apple, eMusic has never added digital rights management (DRM) protection to its music and it will continue to offer unprotected MP3 files. However the company's formerly permissive downloading policies are expected to change dramatically.
Previously, subscribers were able to download unlimited numbers of MP3s. Last October the unlimited option was removed and the store began offering 40 downloads a month to subscribers paying $9.99, or 65 downloads for $14.99 a month.
EMusic was sold by parent company Vivendi Universe in October last year. The new owner is private New York equity group Dimensional Associates.