Napster still exists and now it's owned by a VR company


The amount MelodyVR paid to acquire Napster.

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Somehow Napster still exists, and the only reason we know this is because VR company MelodyVR announced it has acquired the illegal-piracy-turned-legitimate streaming service from its previous owner, RealNetworks... which also still exists somehow. MelodyVR is paying $70 million in the deal, though $44 million of that is the company taking on Napster's existing debt.

Apparently the idea is that MelodyVR will be able to use Napster's service to create more immersive VR events that take advantage of its music rights. “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. That could be potentially interesting in a world that can't party due to the coronavirus. MelodyVR has previously hosted live performances on its service from artists including Kesha, Jojo, and Gunna.

Memory lane — Napster was the first service to popularize music piracy and torrenting in the 1990s with its easy to use interface, which allowed users to upload songs and download them from others for free. Of course, it ran into legal difficulties, to say the least, and went bankrupt when a judge ordered Napster to pay the music industry $26 million for unauthorized distribution of artists' work. After that, the brand was reborn as a legitimate music store, eventually becoming the subscription service that it is today. It's the same as its former swashbuckling self only in name.

Subscriptions won — Spotify CEO Daniel Ek argued over the years that easy and affordable access to music would mark the end of music piracy, and he was largely correct. Music subscription services offer a much better experience than trying to pirate music, infecting your computer with malware in the process, and Spotify now commands more than 138 million global paying subscribers.

Napster filed for bankruptcy in 2002 amid legal difficulties. Founder Shawn Fanning is pictured.JOHN G. MABANGLO/AFP/Getty Images

Napster's iconic brand apparently didn't help it much in growing its own subscription business as it's estimated to have only 3 million subscribers.

MelodyVR hasn't said whether or not Napster's subscription service will continue to operate but it seems likely.