Photo: Flickr Paul Sableman
Rhapsody announced yesterday that it’s buying number-two paid subscription site Napster. But it’s really presiding over Napster’s funeral.
As Janko Roettgers reports at GigaOm, Napster’s offices in LA and San Diego will close, and December 16 will be the last day of work for the company’s 120 employees.
Rhapsody didn’t pay any cash for the service, instead giving Best Buy a minority stake in exchange for Napster’s estimated 400,000 subscribers — which is way down from the 700,000+ that Napster had back when Best Buy bought it in 2008.
Saddest of all for nostalgic music fans of a certain age, the Napster headphone-wearing cat/devil head will be gone.
With all the buzz around Spotify and the absolute dominance of iTunes since 2003, it’s easy to forget that Napster was the first big name in digital music, and introduced computer users to the idea that they could listen to any song in the universe, any time, on demand. The only problem: the people who made that music wanted to be paid for it, and it took about a dozen years to figure out how that would work to all parties’ satisfaction.
Here’s a quick timeline looking back:
- June 1999: Napster is launched by Shawn and John Fanning. It’s the first massive scale peer-to-peer network focused exclusively on sharing music — MP3 files, mostly.
- April 2000: Heavy metal band Metallica sues Napster for copyright infringement after finding a leaked song, “I Disappear,” being distributed before it was officially released. Lars Ulrich testifies before the Senate later that summer, earning the perpetual scorn of music fans who don’t want to pay for music.
- October 2000: A&M and a bunch of other imprints of the four big record labels sue Napster for copyright infringement on Oct. 2. By now, the service is big enough for the court case to be featured on the cover of Time Magazine.
- February 2001: An appeals court decides mostly in the record labels’ favour, and orders Napster to monitor the service and block access to copyrighted files. An injunction is ordered in March.
- June 2001: Napster shuts down its service to comply with the injunction.
- May 2002: Napster announces plans to sell its service to Bertelsmann, and files for bankruptcy in June. But a judge blocks the sale and orders Napster to liquidate in September 2002.
- September 2002: Roxio, a maker of digital music software, buys the Napster brand and logo for about $5 million.
- May 2003: Roxio buys Pressplay, a failing subscription music service started by major labels Sony and Universal, for about $40 million in cash and stock, and relaunches it under the Napster brand name.
- August 2004: Roxio sells its software business to Sonic Solutions and changes its name to Napster, focusing exclusively on the digital music subscription business.
- September 2008: Best Buy buys Napster for a $121 million ($54 million after accounting for Napster’s cash). The company reportedly has about 700,000 subscribers.
- September 2011: Best Buy sells Napster’s customers and intellectual property to Rhapsody in exchange for a minority stake in Rhapsody. The value of the transaction is not disclosed.
RIP Napster, may you have a long afterlife frolicking with LimeWire in fields of free music.