Napster Has No Fear of YouTube, No Sympathy for Labels

Before there was Spotify, Rhapsody or Pandora, there was Napster, the OG of streaming music services. Napster pioneered the idea of peer-to-peer file sharing, allowing users to share their library of music and to download music from other users. The music industry was less than thrilled, and a series of lawsuits from record labels effectively killed off Napster way back in 2000. However, like most things in tech and horror movies, Napster rose from the grave in a new and slightly different form. After passing through a series of different owners, the service has been slowly climbing back to prominence as a subscription-based streaming platform.

That renewed vigor is exactly what Napster’s European general manager Thorsten Schliesche was speaking to The Guardian about when he decided to weigh in on YouTube’s current struggle with music labels saying, “I’m getting a little frustrated with the labels and YouTube. For a long time a lot of artists have not given their music to legal streaming services like Napster, Deezer or Spotify, saying ‘we don’t earn enough’. But the same artists have promoted their videos on YouTube.” He went on to say that labels and artists had created that monolithic power that YouTube now has over the music industry, an act he characterized as “very short-sighted” on the part of the industry.

The Napster brand is no stranger to conflict with labels, so it’s no surprise that Schliesche wasn’t particularly sympathetic to the struggle of indie labels against YouTube. Though he acknowledged that the video giant’s forthcoming streaming service would be a competitor for Napster he stopped short of calling the unreleased product a serious threat. Instead, he attributes YouTube’s success with music audiences to the fact that the service is free and the fact that music files can be easily ripped to bootleg MP3s. While YouTube’s large user base may give its streaming service some initial heft, Schliesche believes it’s no more dangerous to Napster than any of the other streaming services in that already crowded field.

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