Napster names ex-Roblox music exec as CEO

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Music streaming service Napster has employed Jon Vlassopulos as its subsequent CEO. The firm additionally introduced a brand new funding spherical.

The funding quantity wasn’t disclosed, besides that it’s in eight figures. If you’re like me, you is likely to be questioning why Napster remains to be alive after it obtained crushed by the music firms a few a long time in the past. Now that’s a little bit of a story.

Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker began Napster as a digital audio streaming service in 1999. It grew to about 80 million registered customers who cherished the concept of free music. Napster had greater than 100 million MP3 tracks at its peak.

I amassed a pretty big assortment of my very own. But then the likes of Metallica, Dr. Dre, A&M Records, and the Recording Industry Association of America got here out one after the other towards Napster and sued the startup. In mid-2002, Napster declared chapter and I mentioned so lengthy to my free music.

But that wasn’t truly the top. Roxio purchased the Napster model and logos and revived its Pressplay music service as Napster 2.0. In 2008, Best Buy purchased Napster. In 2011, Best Buy merged Napster with Rhapsody. By 2016, Rhapsody phased out its model in favor of Napster. Then it was offered in 2020 to VR live performance agency MelodyVR.

And in May 2022, Napster was offered to Hivemind, Algorand, and an investor consortium. The buyers on this new spherical embody Hivemind, Algorand, SkyBridge Capital, Alumni Ventures, Borderless Capital, and G20 Ventures, which is able to speed up Napster’s Web3 initiatives. Brevan Howard Digital, Arrington Capital, and RSE Ventures are additionally among the many current buyers of the music model.

“Napster always stayed in the back of my mind and it has never really been improved upon because it was this community,” Vlassopulos mentioned in an interview with GamesBeat. “The way that the music services ended up were more commodity than community. So that was my first touch point with the brand. It then got added to the service that you may remember Rhapsody service that RealNetworks had, which was actually the first streaming service before Spotify. So then, Rhapsody became branded as Napster.”

Napster CEO Jon Vlassopulos.

Vlassopulos mentioned that the unique music service had DNA as a music disrupter.

“It”s been working alongside for various years as one of many Spotify rivals. And it has modified arms a few occasions,” he mentioned. “Now it’s a streaming music service with 100 million tracks available around the world.”
Napster supplies streaming music to Sonos and different providers. It has quite a lot of direct licenses with indie musicians. Vlassopulos mentioned the brand new firm has new ambitions due to its deep-pocketed Web3 buyers and others.

“At Roblox, we created a new music industry in the metaverse,” he mentioned. “With Web3, there’s a massive opportunity for revolution, and a changing of the guard that we had similar to 20 years ago. Like we did on Roblox, fans want to connect with the artists they love and be in a community.”

He isn’t disclosing a lot about that Web3 technique simply but, besides that it’s a hybrid Web2 and Web3 alternative.

Vlassopulos, the previous vice chairman and international head of music at Roblox, is credited with constructing the gaming platform firm’s music initiatives and bringing artists into the metaverse by way of interactive, immersive, and hyper social experiences.

“In our early discussions with Jon, we quickly realized his vision of building a fresh, new, and social online music service centered around connecting artists and fans in new ways, and leveraging Web3 technology, aligns perfectly with where we see Napster heading,” mentioned W. Sean Ford, CEO of Algorand, in an announcement. “We believe Napster is the perfect brand and platform to lead the next generation of the music industry that goes beyond streaming or avatar-driven virtual concerts. Jon’s strong connectivity with the music industry and vast experience will give us the necessary leadership to make this a reality.” 

Because of Vlassopulos’ efforts, Roblox music experiences reached over 100 million followers and set the usual for digital live shows and music worlds that permit followers to take part within the inventive course of together with their favourite artists.

“It’s an honor to take on this role and I am thrilled to lead a company with such a rich history in the music industry. With the advent of Web3 technology, we now have an unprecedented opportunity to connect artists and fans in new, innovative ways while also making the fan experience more fun and social and creating new revenue streams for artists,” mentioned Vlassopulos. “I have spent the last three years working hard to establish new, creative, and commercial opportunities for artists in the metaverse and I am looking forward to working alongside the amazing Napster team, our current and future partners, labels, artists,
publishers, brands, and startups to bring mainstream fans to Web3.” 

Napster can also be launching Napster Ventures which is able to deal with fostering, investing in, and buying the most effective Web3 music startups. 

“We are excited for Napster to be a central player in the music Web3 ecosystem,” mentioned Matt Zhang, founder and managing associate of Hivemind, in an announcement. “We look forward to rallying all the amazing
innovation that has happened to date so we can all collectively drive mainstream adoption of Web3 technology for the music industry.”

Algorand, in partnership with Napster, can also be launching an artist growth fund designed to assist artists navigate and achieve success in Web3. The fund will put money into artists to assist assist the advertising and launch of the Web3 artist initiatives globally. 

Vlassopulos has been a serial entrepreneur, senior government, established investor, and thought chief within the music, gaming, and leisure area for the previous three a long time. After beginning his profession as a DJ, he then labored for BMG and Bertelsmann in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and New York within the late 90s the place he led lots of their early digital initiatives and investments, together with engaged on the unique Napster 20+ years in the past, earlier than becoming a member of AT&T Wireless the place he launched the primary cell music service within the US, and launched the primary cell apps for a lot of main international manufacturers.

After AT&T, he ran the Digital and Branded Entertainment divisions at Endemol, a number one international TV manufacturing firm earlier than turning into the CEO of Skyrockit, an award successful cell leisure advertising and promoting company, with shoppers like vitaminwater, GAP, Virgin Mobile, and Clinique. 

In 2019, Vlassopulos joined Roblox as Vice President and Global Head of Music as the corporate sought to be the chief in constructing metaverse live performance experiences. During his tenure, Jon created Roblox’s music technique from scratch and led the corporate’s initiatives and partnerships by establishing strategic, long-term relationships with document labels, publishers, administration firms, companies, artists, manufacturers, and music startups from around the globe.

“Napster has always been at the forefront of music tech and a key partner in helping us deliver Sonos Radio to music fans around the world,” mentioned Ryan Myers, normal supervisor of Sonos Radio, in an announcement. “We are excited about the news unveiled today and look forward to working with Jon and his team in the months ahead.” 

Over time, Napster has paid out billions of {dollars} to the music trade, and so it has a observe document, Vlassapulos mentioned. And so a number of artists and firms and types wish to associate with Napster, he mentioned.

He thinks that digital live shows the place 1000’s of individuals collect in on-line experiences will probably be a part of the brand new music metaverse platforms. But the corporate nonetheless has quite a lot of work to do to determine all of it out.

The firm has about 150 individuals in London, Seattle, Germany, France, and Brazil. The major job is to double down on how Napster is a music group, Vlassopulos mentioned.

“There is an industry opportunity to build something material and we could have the potential to be a leader for the next era,” he mentioned.

Vlassopulos mentioned the corporate will use the funding spherical to evolve. The firm will construct on companies primarily based on music and pitch them to its tens of millions of followers who use Napster to hearken to music. And Napster will increase music into the Web3 area and assist it turn into each extra revolutionary and mainstream, he mentioned.

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