By Ariel Scotti / May 31, 2019

Napster’s Lasting Impact on the Music Industry 20 Years Later

"Why would you spend $17 on a Britney Spears CD and get only two songs that you like?"

Napster
The logo of the music streaming app Napster (Alexander Pohl/ NurPhoto via Getty)

It’s been 20 years since Napster, the free music downloading portal, launched and made songs available to its estimated 80 million users. But the impact is still being felt.

The service went on a wild ride from defying the law at its peak in 1999 when it allowed its users to share and download each other’s MP3 files for free, to virtually disbanding in May 2002 before rebounding as “yesterday’s brand” later that year when it suddenly had to ask people to pay for music, The Guardian reported.

But in that short window of time, Napster was able to hit the music industry so hard that it’s still trying to get its feet back on the ground. The entire industry, according to The Guardian, saw its value fall every single year from 2000 to 2014, when it finally got started clawing its way back upward.

What Napster did before it flamed out was introduce consumers to a way in which they could cherry pick the songs they wanted from albums instead of being forced into purchasing an entire CD, likely including songs they didn’t like and wouldn’t listen to.

“Why would you spend $17 on a Britney Spears CD and get only two songs that you like?” Venture capitalist Eileen Richardson said. “Wouldn’t you prefer to spend $17 and get 17 songs that you like?”

That model would eventually lead to companies like Spotify, which just passed 100 million paying users — of 217 million users in total.

“In a way, Napster won,” said Paul Hitchman, who set up digital music service PlayLouder as Napster was just emerging. “From a consumer point of view, it opened up music to the whole world in a completely liberated way.”

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