It’s Napster’s 10th birthday today. How time flies when you’re disintermediating an industry.
In that short time, the music industry has changed somewhat — somewhat on its head. It all started with Napster’s launch on June 1st, 1999 by college student Shawn Fanning (right, in 2001). The file-sharing service changed the way generations of fans would perceive the value of music i.e., pretty much equal to zero.
In the wake of the original Napster’s demise by way of label lawsuits, there have been scores of digital music start-ups, both illegal and legal, that have tried to replicate original Napster’s popularity. Some have surpassed it in sheer customer volume as broadband penetration has grown to mainstream proportions, but few can claim to have genuinely become a by-word for how an entire business sector potentially could be eradicated.
The sector in this case is the traditional recorded music business. Other businesses like TV, movies, books, cable and of course newspapers, are trying to figure out what the labels did wrong when Napster came knocking in 1999. Should they have tried to work with Napster rather than shut it down?
The music industry is now getting more flexible as we pointed out in our earlier blog today, and here’s hoping it’s not all too late. After Napster was sued out of existence, its brand was bought and relaunched by current CEO Chris Gorog (left, 2006) and his team. US electronics retailer Best Buy bought Napster last October for $54 million net of cash. Last month Napster started offering an all-you-can-stream plus five download songs for $5 a month, which Gorog really believes is as close to the original and popular Napster as he’s going to get legally.