Napster was a truly revolutionary company when it arrived in the late 1990s. The peer-to-peer file-sharing network allowed users to easily download free music, but it soon led to a bitter fight with the music industry that even pulled in stars like Metallica.
The first incarnation of Napster may not have lasted, but it did disrupt the music industry. At the same time, it got music listeners in the habit of listening to music in a non-physical way, paving the way for the arrival of the original iPod in 2001.
The original Napster was founded in 1999 and was bankrupt by 2002. It was acquired by Roxio, and later by Best Buy, which merged it with another 1990s music application, Rhapsody. In 2020, it was sold again, this time to virtual reality firm MelodyVR. Now, Napster has been sold once again, this time to a pair of companies called Hivemind and Algorand. Hivemind is described by the Verge as “a crypto-focused investment firm dedicated to blockchain technologies, crypto companies, and the digital assets ecosystem.”
Hivemind’s founder, Matt Zhang, announced the purchase on his LinkedIn page. “Dear friends, we are excited to share that we've taken Napster Group private, and to bring the iconic music brand to web3,” the post said. “Volatile market and uncertain times often bring exciting opportunities. At Hivemind, we believe in developing thesis and building enduring value. Music x Web3 is one of the most exciting spaces we've come across, and we are thrilled to work with Emmy Lovell and many talents to unlock value for the entire ecosystem and revolutionize how artists and fans enjoy music.”
Napster Group’s own page on LinkedIn stated that ATC Management, BH Digital, and G20 Ventures are among the investors, while Lovell, who joined the company last year as chief strategy officer, will now be its CEO. How exactly Napster will work in Web 3.0, and what exactly its business model will look like, remains unclear. The site suggested that it could allow artists to release music as NFTs, as some other companies have done.
Limewire, another former giant of music piracy, has also been revived, as an NFT-associated platform. “Although web3 advocates claim that tools like the blockchain and NFTs are a way to deliver more value to smaller players, these technologies have really come into their own as financial instruments for leveraging nostalgia,” The Verge said of the trend of late. However, it’s going against the headwind of the recent crypto crash.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.