The End of Napster

Michael Foley December 1, 2011 0
The End of Napster

Napster, which had once been the bane of the music industry, is finally being put to rest. After a very troubled life and countless lawsuits from the likes of the Recording Industry Association of America, Napster’s demise is certainly no surprise.

Napster will no longer be a brand in itself, but has merged with Rhapsody, currently the largest on-demand music service in the US. The deal that became official today was announced last month. It was struck between Rhapsody and Best Buy and although the exact terms of the deal have not been disclosed, Rhapsody will be able to add more subscribers to its user base while Best Buy will receive a minority stake in Rhapsody. Best Buy, which had purchased Napster in 2008 for $121 million, had been offering Napster as a subscription based service.

The peer-to-peer file sharing service (Napster) was founded in 1999 by Shawn Fanning, John Fanning and most famously Sean Parker. Napster was a service that allowed its users to share music files quickly, cheaply…. and illegally. The reason the service became so iconic was because it addressed the disconnect between the music industry and its consumers. In an age when computers were beginning to be more widely used, music fans wanted digital tracks and the idea that one still needed to purchase a whole CD for $20 for one or two songs no longer made sense. But because the music industry took some time (or more accurately threats from services like Napster,) Napster made it possible for users to find songs they liked and get them at no cost. But being illegal, the service was only active for two years before having to shut down.

But the “Napster effect” would last. Proof before you are the myriad of services like Apple’s iTunes where songs cost $0.99 and more recently Spotify, a service which allows subscribers to download an unlimited number of songs for just $10 a month or stream any song for free. At a recent tech conference in October Sean Parker, who is now an investor and board member at Spotify, stated that he has seen the music industry come full circle in the 12 years since Napster was first formed. He later added that “Spotify is an attempt to finish what [he] started at Napster.”


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