Telefonica, the Spanish telecom company with operations in four continents, has acquired a stake in Rhapsody International, the non-U.S. division of streaming platform Rhapsody, according to Billboard. Napster, owned by Rhapsody, is the primary European brand of the service.
Global expansion is top-of-mind for all the American music services, as they jockey for position in Canada, Latin America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. Telephone carriers are assumed to be valuable drivers for brand exposure and audience growth -- witness Muve Music which distributes exclusively on phones.
Telefonica is a telecom giant which already provides a music service called Sonoros to customers in Latin America. Those users will be offered the choice to transfer to Napster on November 1.
The investment comes soon after Rhapsody was shaken by hefty layoffs and a leadership change. Rhapsody’s subscription-only U.S. music service is one of the oldest, having started in 2000, and competes with Google All Access, Spotify, Rdio, and other cloud jukeboxes that offer random access to large music catalogs. It recently added artist-based creation of listening stations to its feature lineup, years after some competitors implemented similar functions.