A Short History of Napster

How the brand has changed over the years

Napster is a legal, online music service currently operating in selected countries.

What Was Napster Originally?

Napster had a very different face when it first came into existence in 1999. The developers of the original Napster launched the service as a peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing network.

The software application was easy to use with a free account, and it was specifically designed for sharing digital music files (in the MP3 format) across a Web-connected network.

The service was extremely popular and provided easy access for millions of internet users to a large amount of free audio files (mostly music) that could also be shared with other Napster members.

At the height of Napster's popularity, approximately 80 million users were registered on its network. In fact, it was so popular that many colleges blocked the use of Napster because of network congestion caused by students obtaining music using peer-to-peer file sharing.

Just about every type of music genre was on tap in the MP3 format originating from audio sources such as analog cassette tapes, vinyl records, and CDs. Napster was also a useful resource for people looking to download rare albums, bootleg recordings, and the latest chart-toppers.

All of this was done essentially without copyright approvals, which made most of its activities illegal.

What Happened to Napster and Why It Was Shut Down

The Napster file-sharing service didn't last that long, however, due to the lack of control over the transfer of copyrighted material across its network.

Napster's illegal operations were soon on the radar of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), which filed a lawsuit against it for the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material.

After a long court battle, the RIAA obtained an injunction from the courts that forced Napster to shut down its network in 2001.

How Napster Was Reborn

Shortly after Napster was forced into liquidating its remaining assets, Roxio (a digital media company), put in a bid for $5.3 million in cash to buy the rights for Napster's technology portfolio, brand name, and trademarks.

The bankruptcy court overseeing the liquidation of Napster's assets approved the purchase in 2002. This event marked a new chapter in the history of Napster.

With its new acquisition, Roxio used the strong Napster name to rebrand its own PressPlay music store and called it Napster 2.0.

Napster logo

Brand Changes Through the Years

The Napster brand has seen many changes over the years. The first was Best Buy's takeover deal, which was worth $121 million. At that time, the struggling Napster digital music service reportedly had 700,000 subscribing customers.

In 2011, the streaming music service Rhapsody inked a deal with Best Buy to acquire Napster subscribers and "certain other assets." The financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed, but the agreement enabled Best Buy to retain a minority stake in Rhapsody.

Even though the iconic Napster name disappeared in the U.S. for many years, the service was still available under the Napster name in the United Kingdom and Germany.

Napster's Ongoing Growth and Evolution

Rhapsody continued to develop the product and focused on reinforcing the brand in Europe.

In 2013, it announced that it would be rolling out the Napster service in 14 additional countries.

In 2016, Rhapsody rebranded its service internationally as Napster.

As of 2022, Napster continues to expand as a source for music-on-demand for other services, including iHeartRadio. That same year MelodyVR, parent company of Rhapsody, was planning to sell Rhapsody to the U.S.-based NM Inc.

In 2023, the company acquired Mint Songs, a Web3 startup.

The goal is to take the company private again and later relist it on the U.S. stock exchange.

Today, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of Napster; a monthly subscription runs $9.99/month.

  • Who founded Napster?

    Technically, there were three founders of Napster: Shawn Fanning, John Fanning, and Sean Parker.

  • How much does Napster pay per stream?

    According to Slaysonics, Napster pays artists $0.01682 per stream or $16.82 for every 1,000 streams. There is no free option on Napster, so royalties come directly from the platform's subscription revenue.

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