In a new recurring blog segment, we’ll be highlighting the stories of the websites we once frequented, the programs that made our lives easier, and the formerly-cutting-edge hardware that may be deep in your basement’s junk pile. You might be surprised to find of how some of these companies stayed alive, morphed or faded into the tech history books.
Before the days of Spotify… before torenting existed… Napster was the wildly popular, and controversial, favorite of the online music game.
Released in 1999, the file sharing service offered a simple way for anyone to access millions of files from other user’s local shared hard drives. While experiments in peer-to-peer file sharing had been popping up for several years before, this was the first major platform to generate serious traffic, grow an enormous group of nearly 20 million users, and become an entire cultural phenomenon.
As quickly as Napster rose in popularity, so did the backlash. After several lawsuits from individual artists and record labels, the Recording Industry Association of America sued on account major accounts of copyright infringement. With Napster now front and center in the media, millions of new users flocked to install the program, spiking traffic downloads to new highs. Following a highly publicized trial, courts mandated for Napster to keep track of its network’s activities and restrict access to any reported infringing materials. With no real way to properly police their network, Napster was cornered into shutting down the service.
But did that mark the end of Napster?
After shutting down the network in late 2001, Napster agreed to pay music creators and copyright owners over $35 million in settlement payments for past, unauthorized uses of their music and potential future licensing royalties. To finance the large payments and stay on the right side of the law, Napster launched a paid music subscription, but within several months the company was hemorrhaging money. After a failed attempt to sell the company to the German media giant Bertelsmann, digital music software provider Roxio bought up the Napster brand and logo for a mere $5 million.
In the following years, the Napster name and logo would float around as the name for several different music platforms and services – passing through the hands of retail giant Best Buy, before joining Rhapsody, another streaming and downloading music service. Today, www.napster.com redirects to a Rhapsody subpage with an announcement of the company merge. Somehow the old headphone-wearing-cat-logo made it through the years and is still subtly featured as a relic of the first wave of popular music pirating.
Interested in a new tech role within the digital music space? Talener is working with several high profile music clients across all of our offices. To see some some our open positions, check out our job board or contact us directly!