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Promotion Lets Supporters Rap Their Views

Hip-Hop multimedia site Rapstation.com has crafted an interactive promotion using Napster.com’s controversial music download technology that has listeners rapping support for the beleaguered technology firm.

The promotion — which also was designed to whip up traffic for the site — began shortly after the Recording Industry Association of America sued Napster.com on behalf of 18 record companies accusing it of copyright infringement. The lawsuit stems from Napster’s software application, which allows anyone to upload and download music MP3 files for free.

The “Power to the People and the Beats” contest lets visitors download a track from rap group Public Enemy called “Power to the Beats” without the lyrics, and then upload a new version with their own lyrics about why they support Napster. The winner, chosen by visitors to Rapstation, will receive $5,000 on June 20.

Rapstation.com co-founder and former Public Enemy front man Chuck D is a supporter of Napster.com.

The number of people who have voted in the contest was not available from Rapstation, Los Angles, but the contest was extended past its original June 7 voting deadline due to strong response.

“When we started out we thought since we basically target college campuses and universities, that is who would enter and respond,” said Lathan Hodge, co-owner and founder of Rapstation. “But it has expanded to the point where anyone who supports Napster seems to be getting involved. The idea was that there have been a lot of people in the media having a dialogue about the Napster controversy, but the public wasn’t really being heard. Now they are being heard through the medium that is in question.”

All the artists involved have signed away the rights to the songs so they can be posted on Napster, other sites or e-mailed anywhere on the Internet for free access — which also has the added benefit of giving both sites lots of free publicity.

“Like Napster’s business model, our marketing strategy and the rules of the contest have been completely viral,” said Hodge. “We wanted to have a promotion that supported Napster and brought people to both sites. Rapstation is all about supporting artists who have been cast aside by record labels and visitors to our site respond to that notion and agree with it.

Currently, Napster does not charge anyone to download its application. But a recent study conducted by digital entertainment analyst firm Webnoize.com reported that more than half of college students surveyed who use Napster would pay $15 per month.

Rapstation.com earns the majority of its revenue from advertisers, but Hodge said that there have been no repercussions from the marketing alliance with Napster from advertisers, sponsors, or labels that music appears on Rapstation.

Because of the lawsuit pending against it, Napster would not comment.

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