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 corporate additionally introduced a brand new funding spherical.

The funding quantity wasn’t disclosed, besides that it’s in eight figures. In the event you’re like me, you is perhaps questioning why Napster continues to be alive after it obtained crushed by the music corporations a few many years 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 top.

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

However that wasn’t truly the tip. Roxio purchased the Napster model and logos and revived its Pressplay music service as Napster 2.0. In 2008, Greatest Purchase purchased Napster. In 2011, Greatest Purchase 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 Could 2022, Napster was offered to Hivemind, Algorand, and an investor consortium. The traders on this new spherical embrace Hivemind, Algorand, SkyBridge Capital, Alumni Ventures, Borderless Capital, and G20 Ventures, which can speed up Napster’s Web3 initiatives. Brevan Howard Digital, Arrington Capital, and RSE Ventures are additionally among the many current traders of the music model.

“Napster all the time stayed behind my thoughts and it has by no means actually been improved upon as a result of it was this group,” Vlassopulos mentioned in an interview with GamesBeat. “The best way that the music companies ended up have been extra commodity than group. In order that was my first contact level with the model. It then obtained added to the service that you could be keep in mind Rhapsody service that RealNetworks had, which was truly the primary streaming service earlier than Spotify. So then, Rhapsody turned 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 quite a lot of years as one of many Spotify opponents. And it has modified arms a few occasions,” he mentioned. “Now it’s a streaming music service with 100 million tracks accessible all over the world.”
Napster gives streaming music to Sonos and different companies. It has loads of direct licenses with indie musicians. Vlassopulos mentioned the brand new firm has new ambitions due to its deep-pocketed Web3 traders and others.

“At Roblox, we created a brand new music business within the metaverse,” he mentioned. “With Web3, there’s an enormous alternative for revolution, and a altering of the guard that we had just like 20 years in the past. Like we did on Roblox, followers wish to join with the artists they love and be in a group.”

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 rapidly realized his imaginative and prescient of constructing a contemporary, new, and social on-line music service centered round connecting artists and followers in new methods, and leveraging Web3 expertise, aligns completely with the place we see Napster heading,” mentioned W. Sean Ford, CEO of Algorand, in an announcement. “We consider Napster is the right model and platform to guide the following technology of the music business that goes past streaming or avatar-driven digital concert events. Jon’s sturdy connectivity with the music business and huge expertise will give us the required management to make this a actuality.” 

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

“It’s an honor to tackle this function and I’m thrilled to guide an organization with such a wealthy historical past within the music business. With the appearance of Web3 expertise, we now have an unprecedented alternative to attach artists and followers in new, modern methods whereas additionally making the fan expertise extra enjoyable and social and creating new income streams for artists,” mentioned Vlassopulos. “I’ve spent the final three years working laborious to ascertain new, inventive, and industrial alternatives for artists within the metaverse and I’m wanting ahead to working alongside the wonderful Napster staff, our present and future companions, labels, artists,
publishers, manufacturers, and startups to convey mainstream followers to Web3.” 

Napster can be launching Napster Ventures which can give attention to fostering, investing in, and buying the very best Web3 music startups. 

“We’re excited for Napster to be a central participant within the music Web3 ecosystem,” mentioned Matt Zhang, founder and managing accomplice of Hivemind, in an announcement. “We sit up for rallying all of the wonderful
innovation that has occurred thus far so we are able to all collectively drive mainstream adoption of Web3 expertise for the music business.”

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

Vlassopulos has been a serial entrepreneur, senior govt, established investor, and thought chief within the music, gaming, and leisure area for the previous three many years. 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 a lot 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 Wi-fi the place he launched the primary cellular music service within the US, and launched the primary cellular apps for a lot of main international manufacturers.

After AT&T, he ran the Digital and Branded Leisure divisions at Endemol, a number one international TV manufacturing firm earlier than changing into the CEO of Skyrockit, an award successful cellular leisure advertising and marketing and promoting company, with purchasers like vitaminwater, GAP, Virgin Cell, and Clinique. 

In 2019, Vlassopulos joined Roblox as Vice President and World Head of Music as the corporate sought to be the chief in constructing metaverse live performance experiences. Throughout 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 report labels, publishers, administration corporations, companies, artists, manufacturers, and music startups from all over the world.

“Napster has all the time been on the forefront of music tech and a key accomplice in serving to us ship Sonos Radio to music followers all over the world,” mentioned Ryan Myers, common supervisor of Sonos Radio, in an announcement. “We’re excited in regards to the information unveiled at present and sit up for working with Jon and his staff within the months forward.” 

Over time, Napster has paid out billions of {dollars} to the music business, and so it has a observe report, Vlassapulos mentioned. And so plenty of artists and corporations and types wish to accomplice with Napster, he mentioned.

He thinks that digital concert events the place hundreds of individuals collect in on-line experiences will likely be a part of the brand new music metaverse platforms. However the firm nonetheless has loads of work to do to determine all of it out.

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

“There’s an business alternative to construct one thing materials and we might have the potential to be a pacesetter for the following period,” he mentioned.

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

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