Former Roblox vp and global head of music Jonathan Vlassopulos has joined Napster as CEO, the company announced Sunday (Sept. 25).
Vlassopulos, who departed Roblox in April after three years, became known for shaping the company’s cutting-edge virtual concert strategy in the early days of the pandemic, with the platform hosting blockbuster virtual shows for artists including Lil Nas X, Tai Verdes, Twenty One Pilots and 24KGoldn. He also navigated Roblox through a rough patch after the company was sued by the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) for copyright infringement in June 2021. The two parties settled the $200 million lawsuit three months later and launched talks for go-forward licensing deals.
Vlassopulos joins Napster four months after the company — which began in 1999 as a peer-to-peer file-sharing service that itself ran afoul of the music industry — was acquired by Web3 companies Hivemind and Algorand, with plans to bring the long-running brand into the Web3 space.
“In our early discussions with Jon, we quickly realized his vision of building a fresh, new, and social online music service centered around connecting artists and fans in new ways. Leveraging Web3 technology, aligns perfectly with where we see Napster heading,” said W. Sean Ford, interim CEO of Algorand, in a statement. “We believe Napster is the perfect brand and platform to lead the next generation of the music industry that goes beyond streaming or avatar-driven virtual concerts. Jon’s strong connectivity with the music industry and vast experience will give us the necessary leadership to make this a reality.”
Vlassopulos added that he is “thrilled to lead a company with such a rich history in the music industry” and “looking forward to working alongside the amazing Napster team, our current and future partners, labels, artists, publishers, brands, and startups to bring mainstream fans to Web3.”
Concurrent with Vlassopulos’ hire, Napster also announced a new funding round, with participation from existing investors and new backers including Hivemind, Algorand, SkyBridge Capital, Alumni Ventures, Borderless Capital and G20. The money will be used to “accelerate” the company’s Web3 initiatives.
“We are excited for Napster to be a central player in the Music Web3 ecosystem,” said Matt Zhang, founder and managing partner of Hivemind. “We look forward to rallying all the amazing innovation that has happened to date so we can all collectively drive mainstream adoption of Web3 technology for the music industry.”
In addition, Napster announced the launch of an artist development fund that will help support the marketing and launch of artist Web3 projects globally.
Vlassopulos started his music career as a DJ before pivoting to work for BMG and Bertelsmann, where he led many of the company’s early digital initiatives and investments, including working on the original Napster file-sharing service over 20 years ago. He later moved to AT&T Wireless, where he launched a mobile music service, before running the digital and branded entertainment divisions at TV production company Endemol. He subsequently served as CEO of mobile entertainment marketing and advertising agency Skyrockit before joining Roblox in 2019. In June, he joined the advisory board of Dubit, a metaverse games designer based in the U.K.