Rhapsody buys Napster

By | Published on Tuesday 4 October 2011


US-based digital music service Rhapsody has announced it has acquired its rival Napster, creating, presumably, Napsody. Actually, the once infamous digital music brand Napster is likely to be phased out in the US market, though may continue outside America where Rhapsody itself has never launched.

Rhapsody, of course, was the music service created by Real Networks, later a joint venture with MTV, before being spun off as its own company last year. After the original Napster file-sharing company went bankrupt amidst mounting legal problems, the name was eventually bought by Roxio, which launched it as a legit download service. US retailer Best Buy bought the company in 2008.

Both Rhapsody and (the legit) Napster have been primarily based around a subscription model since the word go, rather than being an a la carte download store. Although in the US such subscription services enjoyed more success than in Europe, they were nevertheless hugely overshadowed by iTunes-style businesses, and iTunes itself in particular.

However, as streaming music has become more viable and more popular in recent years, both Rhapsody and Napster have capitalised on – albeit with mixed results – the opportunity to re-hype themselves as the original subscription based digital music platforms.

The exact terms of Rhapsody’s takeover deal are not known, though its thought the Napster service will basically cease to exist in the US, with its users moved over to Rhapsody. Best Buy will get a stake in the Rhapsody company.

Although it’s not known how many paying subscribers Napster currently has in the US, it will certainly help Rhapsody retain its status as the biggest music subscription service in America in terms of paying customers.

Simply by having been around so long – and thanks to some other similar acquisitions in the past, in particular of a Yahoo! service in 2004 – Rhapsody still has a considerably bigger membership than any of its newer rivals, though, of course, the much hyped Spotify is seeing both its free and paid for subscriber base in the US grow much faster than any of its competitors have ever achieved.