Napster appoints ex-Roblox music director as CEO

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Music streaming service Napster has appointed Jon Vlassopolos as its CEO. The company also announced a new financing round.

The amount of funding was not disclosed, except that it is in eight figures. If you’re anything like me, you might be wondering why Napster survived being crushed by music companies a few decades ago. It’s a little story.

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Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker Napster launched as a digital audio streaming service in 1999. It grew to about 80 million registered users who loved the idea of ​​free music. Napster had over 100 million MP3 tracks at its peak.

I have collected a large collection of my own. But then bands like Metallica and Dr. Dre, A&M Records and the Recording Industry Association of America one by one against Napster and filed a lawsuit against the startup. In the middle of 2002, Napster filed for bankruptcy and said a lot to my free music.

But that wasn’t really the end. Roxio bought the Napster brand and logos and relaunched the Pressplay music service as Napster 2.0. In 2008, Best Buy acquired Napster. In 2011, Best Buy merged Napster with Rhapsody. In 2016, Rhapsody gradually ditched its brand in favor of Napster. It was then sold in 2020 to virtual reality party company MelodyVR.

In May 2022, Napster was sold to Hivemind, Algorand and a consortium of investors. Investors in this new round include Hivemind, Algorand, SkyBridge Capital, Alumni Ventures, Borderless Capital and G20 Ventures, which will accelerate Napster’s Web3 initiatives. Brevan Howard Digital, Arrington Capital, and RSE Ventures are also among the music brand’s current investors.

“Napster has always stuck in my mind and never really got better because it was that community,” Vlasopoulos said in an interview with GamesBeat. “The way music services ended up becoming more of a commodity than a community. That was my first point of contact with the brand. It was later added to the service you might remember from RealNetworks’ Rhapsody service, which was actually the first streaming service before Spotify. So. Rhapsody has become a brand of Napster.

John Vlasopoulos, CEO of Napster.

Vlasopoulos said the original music service had DNA as a disruptor.

It has been operating as one of Spotify’s competitors for several years. It has been changed several times. “Now it’s a music streaming service with 100 million tracks available worldwide.”
Napster provides music streaming to Sonos and other services. He has several direct licenses with independent musicians. Thanks to Web3 investors and others, Vlasopoulos said, the new company has new ambitions.

“At Roblox, we’ve created a new music industry in the metaverse,” he said. “With Web3, there is a huge opportunity to revolutionize and change the guard like we did 20 years ago. Like we did on Roblox, fans want to connect with the artists they love and be part of the community.

He doesn’t say much about this Web3 strategy at the moment, except that it’s a hybrid opportunity from Web2 and Web3.

Vlassopolos, former Vice President and Global Head of Music at Roblox, is credited with creating the game platform company’s music initiatives and bringing artists to the metaverse with interactive, immersive, and interactive experiences. Super social.

“During our initial discussions with John, we quickly recognized his vision of creating a new, modern and social online music service, centered around connecting artists and fans in new ways, and leveraging Web3 technology, perfectly aligned with the direction of Napster,” said W. Shawn Ford, CEO of Algorand, In a statement. “We believe Napster is the perfect brand and platform to lead the next generation of the music industry beyond avatar-based broadcasting or virtual concerts. John’s strong connection to the music industry and extensive experience will give us the leadership needed to make this a reality.

Thanks to Vlassopulos’ efforts, Roblox’s music experiences have reached over 100 million fans and set the standard for virtual concerts and music worlds that allow fans to participate in the creative process with their favorite artists.

“It is an honor to take on this role and I am thrilled to lead a company with 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 and innovative ways while making the fan experience more fun and social and creating new revenue streams for fans and artists,” Vlasopoulos said. “I have spent the past three years working hard to create new creative and commercial opportunities for artists across the Metaverse and look forward to working alongside the amazing team at Napster, our current and future partners, brands, artists,
Publishers, brands, and startups to bring major fans to Web3.

Napster is also launching Napster Ventures which will focus on promoting, investing, and acquiring the best music startups in Web3.

“We are delighted that Napster is a central player in the Web3 music ecosystem,” Matt Zhang, founder and managing partner of Hivemind, said in a statement. We can’t wait to get all the cool stuff together
The innovation that has occurred so far so that we can all collectively drive the widespread adoption of Web3 technology for the music industry.

Algorand, in partnership with Napster, has also launched an Artist Development Fund designed to help artists navigate and succeed on Web3. The fund will invest in artists to help support the marketing and launch of Web3 artist projects globally.

Vlassopulos is a serial entrepreneur, CEO, established investor and thought leader in music, games and entertainment for the past three decades. Having started his career as a DJ, he subsequently worked with BMG and Bertelsmann in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and New York in the late 1990s, leading many of their early digital initiatives and investments, including work on the original Napster over 20 years ago. . , before joining AT&T Wireless where he launched the first mobile music service in the United States and launched the first mobile applications for several major global brands.

After AT&T, he led the digital entertainment and brand divisions of Endemol, a leading global television production company, before becoming CEO of Skyrockit, an award-winning mobile entertainment marketing and advertising agency, with clients including Vitamin Water, Gap, Virgin Mobile and The Clinic.

In 2019, Vlassopolos joined Roblox as Vice President and Global Head of Music as the company strives to be a leader in creating the metaverse concert experiences. During his tenure, John built the Roblox music strategy from the ground up and led the company’s initiatives and partnerships by building long-term strategic relationships with record labels, publishers, management, agencies, artists, brands, and emerging music companies around the world.

“Napster has always been at the forefront of music technology and a key partner in helping us bring Sonos Radio to music fans around the world,” said Ryan Myers, CEO of Radio Sonos, in a statement. “We are excited about the news revealed today and look forward to working with John and his team in the coming months.”

Over time, Vlasapoulos said, Napster has poured billions of dollars into the music industry, and thus has a proven track record. He said a lot of artists, companies and brands would like to partner with Napster.

It is believed that virtual concerts in which thousands of people gather in online experiences will be part of the new Metaverse music platforms. But the company still has a lot of work to do to figure it all out.

The company has about 150 people in London, Seattle, Germany, France and Brazil. The main task, Vlasopoulos said, is to double down on Napster’s role as a music community.

“There is an opportunity for the industry to build something physical and we could have the potential to be pioneers for the next era,” he said.

Vlasopoulos said the company will use the funding round to expand its reach. The company will build on the music-based business and bring it to the millions of fans who use Napster to listen to music. He said Napster will expand the reach of music in the Web3 space and help it become more innovative and pervasive.

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