The streaming music incarnation of the storied Napster brand is taking its next step into Web3 with the acquisition of startup Mint Songs.
Napster originally announced its move into blockchain last June with a plan to launch a token using the Algorand blockchain. Today, Napster says the Mint Songs acquisition will be the foundation for the company’s first Web3 offerings.
Mint Songs co-founder and CTO Garrett Hughes will join Napster as an advisor.
“As we looked for a partner that could take what we’ve built over the last two years and give artists a true marketplace for their assets where millions of fans are already active, it became abundantly clear that Jon and Napster have the vision to finally take Web3 music to the mainstream,” Hughes said in a statement.
The new platform, Napster says, will offer digital collectibles that aim to connect artists with their fans by building a community around the artist and their music and allowing the artist to engage with their fanbase.
“The hope is that we can bring this innovation to the mainstream and get consumers—regular fans—just doing it,” Napster CEO Jon Vlassopulos told Decrypt in an interview. “So it’s almost going back to that [point] where you had collectible downloads that were scarce, and it just wasn’t on-chain.”
The acquisition of Mint Songs is the first deal by the newly created Napster Ventures, which the company says focuses on fostering, investing in, and acquiring the best Web3 music startups.
Napster was originally a peer-to-peer file-sharing platform focused on digital audio that caused a firestorm online and in the media, sparking congressional hearings on copyright and ownership in the digital age. Initially launched in June 1999 by Sean Parker—later the founding president of Facebook—and Shawn Fanning, the platform was defunct by 2001, thanks to legal challenges aimed at the music-sharing service.
But while the peer-to-peer file-sharing technology was gone, the Napster brand lived on.
In 2011, Napster was acquired by Best Buy, which merged it with its brand Rhapsody, which revived the brand in 2016. While some have written Napster off as a “zombie brand,” Vlassopulos says the platform is anything but.
“We’ve been in the market since the end of September, October, and we’ve had half a billion media hits—it’s been nothing but positive in terms of the brand,” Vlassopulos said.
Vlassopulos says that bringing Napster into Web3 is a fantastic opportunity for it to be a disruptor once again.
“We were the original disrupter—there’s a feeling of ownership that we’re coming back to disrupt again,” he said, adding that Napster has been around for 20 years and has generated over a billion in revenue.
In May 2022, Napster was acquired by blockchain firm Algorand and Matt Zhang’s Hivemind Capital Partners, which continued to offer its paid music streaming service. Vlassopulos became CEO of Napster in September 2022. The company then began planning to acquire projects in Web3 and the digital music startup industry.
“We are excited for Napster to be a central player in the music Web3 ecosystem, and acquiring Mint Songs is a great foundational step,” founder and managing partner of Hivemind Matt Zhang said in a statement. “The combination of Napster’s continued innovation that powers the platform currently, along with Mint Songs’ technology IP and expertise, will help drive Web3 innovation for the music industry.”
Napster says it plans to integrate Mint Songs’ technology into the Napster platform and roll out products and services already on the Mint Songs’ roadmap. Vlassopulos says the first iteration of the new Napster platform is slated for release in the second quarter of this year.
“It feels like Web3 was around for a decade, and it’s ready for consumer success,” Vlassopulos said, asserting that the integration of music and Web3 is inevitable. “So the bet is that, as 20 years ago, music was the on-ramp to digital, why shouldn’t music again be the on-ramp for the Web3 consumer?”