Napster, once considered the Big Bad Wolf of the record industry by opening the mainstream door to illegal filesharing, has found a new life overseas in the UK and Europe as a legal, streaming service.
Shawn Fanning's free peer-to-peer service was launched in 1999 and was considered the holy grail of music access to computer users – particularly college students – who found themselves at the helm of an unlimited amount of free music. It was, naturally, also the centerpiece of a firestorm of debate and music industry lawsuits, resulting in its closure two years later. In 2003, Napster tried to repackage itself as a legitimate download service, but a lack of leadership and core vision led to its failure. The company was then bought by online music subscription service Rhapsody in 2011, and offers paying subscribers access to over 15 million tracks.
Rhapsody president, Jon Irwin told the Daily Telegraph: "The acquisition of Napster and its subscriber base in the UK and Germany gives us an ideal entry to the European market. Through the benefit of scale, the strength of our editorial programming, and strategic partnerships, we can now bring the Napster service to even more consumers on a variety of platforms."
Napster currently offers two services, one where users can stream unlimited music on their home computers for a fee of roughly $8 per month and another, which allows users to operate Napster on mobile devices for closer to $18 per month. Think of it as a musical Netflix. For England. With a better navigation system, we hope.