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Rhapsody is changing its name to Napster in a desperate bid for relevancy

Likely attempting to play off name recognition of the infamous music downloading service, Rhapsody will be rebranding as Napster in the near future within North America. Prior to this shift, Rhapsody already rebranded the company’s music streaming service to the Napster name in many countries around the world.

Roughly four and a half years ago, Rhapsody purchased the Napster brand name from Best Buy. The electronics chain had previously purchased Napster for more than $120 million during 2008, but were unsuccessful in attracting new subscribers. Between 2008 and 2011, Best Buy lost roughly half of the subscriber base before Rhapsody stepped in to purchase the brand.

Since then, Rhapsody has grown in size to about 3.5 million subscribers globally. Unfortunately, that figure pales in comparison to Spotify’s 30 million paying subscribers as well as the 15 million subscribers that are using Apple Music. Of course, Rhapsody is still outpacing the 3 million subscribers using the Tidal music service.

According to the official blog post about the branding shift, Rhapsody will not change the cost of the service or the content library. The rebranding shift is coming at a time of corporate restructuring at Rhapsody. Specifically, the company recently announced a series of layoffs as well as the closing of the San Francisco office branch. At this time, the company is still retaining the main corporate office in Seattle as well as branches in New York, Germany and Brazil.

Speaking about changes in the company, a Rhapsody spokesperson said “The difficult actions we are taking now will create operational efficiency and position Rhapsody/Napster for growth while further expanding our global partnerships, which last year contributed to a 35 percent increase in paid subscribers.”

Presumably, Rhapsody representatives believe that the Napster brand name will no longer be associated with free music downloads. Originally founded as a peer-to-peer file sharing service during 1999, Napster gained notoriety as 80 million registered users utilized the service to actively exchange MP3 music files. During the peak of Napster’s popularity, many colleges actually had to block the service from being used by students in order to reduce heavy network traffic as well as avoid any association with potential copyright violators.