Napster has a new owner

MelodyVR's acquisition gives it a third life, this time in virtual reality.

Reuters Photographer / reuters

The saga of Napster has taken an interesting turn, as the piracy-turned-streaming site has been acquired by the VR experience company MelodyVR. In a deal worth $70 million, MelodyVR will take control of Napster from previous owner RealNetworks and assume $44 million in debt, mostly to music industry companies. MelodyVR said Napster will help it establish an “entertainment platform that spans immersive live performances and recorded music streaming.”

Once synonymous with music piracy, Napster’s name (and not its P2P piracy business) was acquired by the music streaming service Rhapsody (owned by RealNetworks) in 2012. Rhapsody eventually changed its name to Napster in 2016. RealNetworks eventually spun the company off, but retained an 84 percent stake. In 2019, Napster served 10.8 billion streams and took in $113 million in revenue.

Meanwhile, MelodyVR aims to be the “destination for music in virtual reality,” with live performance VR experiences on Oculus Go, Oculus Quest, Samsung Gear, iOS and Android platforms. It has access to catalogs from Warner, Universal and Sony (including Sony labels Columbia, Epic, Legacy, Masterworks, RCA Records, Sony Classical, Sony Music Latin and Syco Music).

The two companies together will create a concert-at-home VR juggernaut, MelodyVR hopes. “MelodyVR’s acquisition of Napster will result in the development of the first ever music entertainment platform which combines immersive visual content and music streaming,” said CEO Anthony Matchett. “For music fans today, live and recorded music are intrinsically linked. We are as keen to see our favorite artists perform live as we are to listen to their albums.”

RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser said that the company was “grateful for the hard work by the entire Napster team to keep the torch alive all of these years.” The deal is expected to conclude by the end of 2020.

Update 8/27/2020 6:23 PM ET: The post originally said that MelodyVR is on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, but it’s currently on Oculus Go, Oculus Quest, Samsung Gear, iOS and Android platforms. The post has been updated with the correct information.