Napster appointed former Roblox exec Jon Vlassopulos as its new CEO in September 2022, with plans to pivot the streaming service towards web3 technologies.
Vlassopulos told Music Ally at the time that Napster would be investing in web3 startups and even acquiring some through its new Napster Ventures arm. This afternoon, the first acquisition has been announced.
Napster is buying Mint Songs, a startup that had raised $4.3m of funding to build its music NFTs marketplace, while working with artists including electronic music star Gramatik.
Mint Songs’ head of product Nathan Pham, formerly of Pandora and UnitedMasters, will now be in charge of Napster’s web3 product initiatives, while the startup’s CTO Garrett Hughes will become an advisor.
Last September, Mint Songs announced that it was winding down its operations, in a letter posted to Twitter signed by Hughes and his co-founder Dwight Torculas.
“This was nothing short of a dream, I just wished for a different outcome,” wrote Hughes in a LinkedIn post at the time, noting that Mint Songs’ platform had been used by nearly 2,000 musicians to create almost 90,000 NFTs, and that the company had paid out around $100k to independent artists.
He later joined another web3 company, RabbitHole, as its head of engineering. Torculas also posted about the winding-down process at the time. Neither co-founder elaborated on the reasons for closing, although in July 2022 Pham posted that he had left the company as part of a round of layoffs.
Napster told Music Ally that Mint Songs’ sunsetting came as acquisition discussions began to take place, and that even after the winding down “Mint Songs is still a top 5 music NFT marketplace”.
In any case, it will now be living on as part of Napster’s web3 plans, with the latter company describing this as “the first of a series of acquisitions” through Napster Ventures, so there are clearly more deals in the works.
“It feels like there have been more music startups formed in the last two to three years than in the previous 20,” said Vlassopulos. “It’s inspiring to see so many talented teams pushing to create a music ecosystem that is better for artists and fans.”
Napster itself is one of the most-acquired digital music brands, having been bought (or merged with) at different times in its history by Roxio, Best Buy, Rhapsody, MelodyVR and most recently by web3 firms Hivemind and Algorand in May 2022.
Now Napster is firmly focused on being a buyer rather than a purchase (don’t worry, we’ll delete this sentence if it gets acquired yet again in a year’s time!) as it plans how best to wrap web3 technologies including NFTs into its service.
The specific details of that are still under wraps, but the Mint Songs announcement explains more generally that the deal will be used for “unlocking new creative and commercial opportunities for fans through collectibles” (i.e. NFTs) that will be “part of artists’ releases and fan-engagement campaigns”.
“We see a demand from fans for a music service to offer more than just on-demand music and podcasts, which makes Napster’s ambitious goals all the more attractive,” said Hughes.
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