Rhapsody Bringing Back the Napster Name in the U.S.

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2016-06-15 Print this article Print
Rhapsody, Napster, music streaming, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora

The name change to Napster arrives as the company is restructuring and laying off an undisclosed number of workers around the world.

Music-streaming service Rhapsody, which bought the assets of Napster back in 2011 and uses the Napster name elsewhere around the world, is changing its name to Napster in the United States in the near future.

The company announced the move on June 14 in a post on its Website, telling customers that other than the name change there would be "no changes to your playlists, favorites, albums, and artists," nor will there be changes made to the company's music offerings or services.

In a statement sent to eWEEK in response to an inquiry about the change, CEO Mike Davis said the company will use the Napster name in the United States as it does in all other non-U.S. markets as it forms one global brand.

"The move is one of many steps we're taking to strengthen our global brand and better position the company for growth," said Davis in his statement. "Subscribers can keep enjoying their playlists, favorites and albums as usual, without interruption; they will automatically be brought in under the Napster name via auto updates in the app. We'll have much more to say about the change soon–stay tuned."

The announcement comes just a day after Davis confirmed that Rhapsody/Napster is going through a restructuring that will bring about the lay-offs of an undisclosed number of employees around the world, according to a June 13 story by Billboard. "As part of our plan to better position Rhapsody/Napster for long-term profitability and accelerated growth in a competitive global market, we have a new, streamlined structure for the company that unfortunately impacts a number of positions across our global offices," Davis told Billboard. "We will handle the process with the deepest respect and gratitude for all affected individuals."

Rhapsody/Napster is based in Seattle, but has offices in San Francisco, New York, São Paulo and Frankfurt.

The rebranding and restructuring come just two months after Davis was named on April 21 as the first CEO of Rhapsody International, which is the parent company of Rhapsody and Napster. In December, Rhapsody announced that it had expanded its subscriber base by 45 percent in less than 12 months and had almost 3.5 million global subscribers in 34 countries.

Before joining Rhapsody as the CEO, Davis served as both a TPG growth advisor and senior operating consultant for The Gores Group. He also previously was the CEO of Alliance Entertainment (Platinum Equity & The Gores Group), CEO of Gavin De Becker & Associates (TPG Growth) and chief commercial officer for Cinram (The Najafi Companies), according to Rhapsody.

A company spokesman declined to comment when asked by eWEEK if the Napster brand name might still have negative connotations from its days in the late 1990s when it was a peer-to-peer music-sharing service that started out in a dorm room. Musical artists battled the original Napster in court over their musical content and won their cases on claims of copyright infringement, essentially shutting down the original peer-to-peer service.

Napster's name was acquired by Roxio in a 2002 bankruptcy auction and revived as a subscription music service, and then was sold to Best Buy in 2008, according to an Associated Press story. In October 2011, Best Buy sold Napster to Rhapsody as Rhapsody worked to grow its subscriber base. Rhapsody got its own start in 2001.

Rhapsody offers a three-month trial for $1 and then charges $9.99 a month for its paid ad-free music-streaming services. The company offers more than 35 million songs to subscribers.

The Rhapsody/Napster changes also come as competitors, including Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora, have been making their own adjustments in a busy marketplace.

Earlier this week, Apple announced an all-new user interface for its year-old Apple Music streaming service as it works to address user complaints about its original design, according to a June 13 eWEEK story. The Apple Music changes include an all-new design that Apple expects will be easier for users to navigate as they search for music.

The Library, For You, Browse and Radio tabs inside Apple Music have been redesigned for ease of use, while a new Search tab has been added to make it easier to find music. Also new is the addition of visible lyrics when listening in Apple Music. The changes are aimed at helping Apple further increase the user base of its Apple Music subscription service, which now has 15 million users.

Apple Music was launched in June 2015 as the company dove into the growing streaming-music market with a $9.99-a-month service that aimed to take on established competitors, such as Spotify, Rhapsody and Pandora. A family membership for up to six users is $14.99 a month. About 10 million users signed up in the first six months, but the service didn't grow as much as Apple had expected.

In May, Spotify dropped the price of its Spotify Family Plan premium music-streaming services to $14.99 for up to six family members, saving a family of six about $20 per month over its former rates. The music-streaming company unveiled its lower prices to replace its old pricing structure of $9.99 for the first user and $5 each for each additional user for family members. The new Spotify Family Plan rate puts the service on par with Apple Music, which charges $9.99 for one user or $14.99 for up for six family members.



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