Napster has entered a new chapter in its storied life. In news that will cause flashbacks for digital media veterans, Rhapsody has signed an agreement to acquire Napster subscribers and certain other assets, in exchange for which Napster’s parent Best Buy will receive a minority stake in Rhapsody. Further details were not disclosed for the transaction, which is expected to close around the end of November.
It is unclear whether Napster’s content licenses and contracts are included in the agreement. As a Best Buy service, Napster offered paid subscriptions to a music catalog of over 15 million songs, along with access to streaming music radio stations and tools including playlists, rankings and charts. Rhapsody’s paid subscriptions offer a catalog of 13 million songs with similar features and functionalities. In addition to web and mobile (iOS, Android and Blackberry), both services enable users to choose unlimited numbers of specific songs and to play music when offline, unlike their more buzzed-about streaming music cousins like Spotify and Pandora.
“This deal will further extend Rhapsody’s lead over our competitors in the growing on-demand music market,” said Jon Irwin president, Rhapsody. “There’s substantial value in bringing Napster’s subscribers and robust IP portfolio to Rhapsody as we execute on our strategy to expand our business via direct acquisition of members and distribution deals.”
Napster began as a rogue digital music pioneer, then went legit when it was purchased by Roxio in 2002. Best Buy bought it in 2008 in a deal valued at $121 million and used the service to promote sales of portable devices, highlighting its flexibility and instant access to millions of songs as compared to Apple’s iTunes that required listeners to pay for each track before they could hear it. Apple still does not have a subscription service, despite its acquisition of LaLa, which Apple shut down in 2010.
“This is a ‘go big or go home’ business, so our focus is on sustainably growing the company,” Irwin said. “We’re excited to welcome Napster music fans to the best on-demand music experience anywhere. Our new members will have more places to connect to the music they love and to discover new favorites; guided by Rhapsody’s rockstar editorial team and the tastes of other Rhapsody members via our innovative social features.”
CNET – http://tinyurl.com/3pw5em2
Wall Street Journal – http://tinyurl.com/3gerjuq
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