Napster, the original music disruptor and long-running independent music streaming service, has acquired Web3 music startup Mint Songs.
Mint Songs runs a non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace that helps music artists build Web3 communities as well as mint songs and provide exclusive art for their fans to own and trade.
Mint Songs previously raised $4.3 million from investors including Freestyle Capital and Castle Island Ventures and worked with top Web3 artists like Gramatik, Mark de Clive-Lowe, and Black Dave among many others to offer exclusive NFT items. Napster also announced that it has hired Mint Songs’ Nate Pham to lead its Web3 product initiatives. Prior to Mint Songs, Nate held senior product roles at Pandora and UnitedMasters.
When former Roblox executive Jon Vlassopulos joined Napster as CEO at the end of last year, he announced the company’s plans to look for acquisitions within the Web3 and broader digital music startup ecosystem. This is the first of a series of acquisitions Napster intends to make to speed up its Web3 feature rollout plans.
“When I joined, we were talking about Napster Ventures and looking at the opportunity in the marketplace for potential roll-ups,” said Vlassopulos. “To speed up our go-to-market of the Web3 features that we saw as a natural to evolve from where we are, we were so excited. They’re great. I think there’s been so much innovation in the Web3 music space.”
Mint Songs’ co-founder and CTO, Garrett Hughes, will join Napster as an adviser where he will work closely with Vlassopulos to integrate Mint Songs’ technology into the Napster platform. Hughes will also continue to advise the Napster team as they roll out new Web3 products and services that were previously on the Mint Songs roadmap.
“We’re excited to bring the tech to the Napster ecosystem, to start extending this offering to our fans and artists,” he said.
Vlassopulos said Mint Songs did a fantastic job getting to know artists and working with them on Web3 products. “We are in an unprecedented era of innovation in the digital music space and it feels like there have been more music startups formed in the last two to three years than in the previous 20. It’s inspiring to see so many talented teams pushing to create a music ecosystem that is better for artists and fans and we are delighted to welcome one of the most impressive Web3 music startups, Mint Songs, as the newest member of the Napster family,” said Vlassopulos. “Garrett and team have done groundbreaking work helping thousands of artists get their start in Web3, reach their fans in new creative ways through collectibles, and unlock significant new revenue streams.”
Napster has longstanding artist and label relationships as well as customer data from 20-plus years of offering a commercial music service while Mint Songs has had the chance to work with artists and labels on the front lines of Web3, helping them take their first steps into this new exciting space.
This coming together of Napster and Mint Songs creates a chance for artists to join a trusted platform that can help with their existing streaming distribution whilst also unlocking new creative and commercial opportunities for fans through collectibles, all in one place. Collectibles can now be part of artist releases and fan engagement campaigns, exposing the idea of collecting and ownership to mass-market music fans expanding from the current more limited NFT collector base.
“As we looked for a partner that could take what we’ve built over the last two years and give artists a true marketplace for their assets where millions of fans are already active, it became abundantly clear that Jon and Napster have the vision to finally take Web3 Music to the mainstream,” said Hughes, CTO of Mint Songs, in a statement. “Our goal all along has been to create deep, engaging, and innovative ways for artists to connect with fans that also offer them an opportunity to monetize that fandom. Conversely, 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.”
The acquisition of Mint Songs is the first deal executed by the newly created Napster Ventures, which was announced at the same time as Vlassopulos’ appointment as CEO and is focused on fostering, investing in, and acquiring the best Web3 music startups.
“We are excited for Napster to be a central player in the music Web3 ecosystem and acquiring Mint Songs is a great foundational step,” said Matt Zhang, managing partner of Hivemind, which led an investor consortium to acquire Napster last year, in a statement. “The combination of Napster’s continued innovation that powers the platform currently along with Mint Songs’ technology IP and expertise, will help drive Web3 innovation for the music industry.”
Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker started Napster as a digital audio streaming service in 1999. It grew to about 80 million registered users who loved the idea of free music. Napster had more than 100 million MP3 tracks at its height.
I amassed a pretty large collection of my own. But then the likes of Metallica, Dr. Dre, A&M Records, and the Recording Industry Association of America came out one by one against Napster and sued the startup. In mid-2002, Napster declared bankruptcy and I said so long to my free music.
But that wasn’t actually the end. Roxio bought the Napster brand and logos and revived its Pressplay music service as Napster 2.0. In 2008, Best Buy bought Napster. In 2011, Best Buy merged Napster with Rhapsody. By 2016, Rhapsody phased out its brand in favor of Napster. Then it was sold in 2020 to VR concert firm MelodyVR.
And in May 2022, Napster was sold to Hivemind, Algorand, and an investor consortium. The investors in this new round include Hivemind, Algorand, SkyBridge Capital, Alumni Ventures, Borderless Capital, and G20 Ventures, which will accelerate Napster’s Web3 initiatives. Brevan Howard Digital, Arrington Capital, and RSE Ventures are also among the existing investors of the music brand. Vlassopulos, who ran music integrations at Roblox, joined at the end of September as CEO.
Over time, Napster has paid out billions of dollars to the music industry, and so it has a track record, Vlassapulos said. And so lots of artists and companies and brands want to partner with Napster, he said.
He thinks that virtual concerts where thousands of people gather in online experiences will be part of the new music metaverse platforms. But the company still has a lot of work to do to figure it all out.
The company has about 150 people in London, Seattle, Germany, France, and Brazil. Vlassopulos thinks that products related to the Mint Songs deal will start arriving in the second quarter.
Vlassopulos said that the economic slowdown has made the startups in the Web3 space cheaper. (He did not disclose the price Napster paid).
“On the positive, I’ve seen the most innovation I’ve seen in 20 years in the music space in terms of people trying something new,” he said.
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