Music player Winamp still exists – and it’s reinventing itself for the age of streaming

Remember Winamp? The iconic music player for desktop computers revolutionized music consumption in the 1990s, but faded from view as music listeners switched to smartphones and streaming.

Now the app is back with a new product for the modern era. Its Belgium-based owner, Llama Group, is launching a new version that will be available for Android and Apple devices, which it bills as an all-purpose app for music connoisseurs.

(Though to hear Llama Group tell it, Winamp never went away; the company says the existing desktop app has 83 million users worldwide.)

The new mobile Winamp will be able to stream podcasts and online radio stations, and later this year, it will be able to integrate music streaming subscriptions like Spotify, allowing subscribers to access their playlists through Winamp. And like the old Winamp, it will also play music files stored locally on a device.

But Llama Group’s ambitions are larger than that; they want the player to “unlock the relationship between artists and fans, while empowering creators to become their own merchants.”

To that end, the app includes a feature called the Fanzone, where creators can set up tiered subscription plans through which their fans can access exclusive content and buy artist merchandise.

“Creators find it increasingly hard to gain value from streaming services, making it harder for them to sustain their art and grow their careers,” Llama Group CEO Alexandre Saboundjian said in a statement.

“In this environment, artists have to take their future into their own hands – they need to supplement the income by becoming their own merchants. … With the new Winamp player, our aim is to empower creators to make more money, at a time when they really need it.”

The Fanzone will be available to independent artists, artists signed to labels and even to labels themselves, Llama Group said in an email to MBW.

“We are in advanced discussions with independent labels that are looking to open a new type of marketplace to get even closer to their fans – the fans of the artists and the music they produce – and to offer them exclusive content and unique experiences,” the company said through a spokesperson.

“The Fanzone is the service, the tools and the opportunity for artists and labels to become better merchants of their content.”

Llama Group is clear that it’s not aiming to compete with music streaming services.

“Winamp does not have the ambition to become a DSP, and indeed the idea is to be complementary to the existing streaming music ecosystem,” the company said.

Maybe the most surprising thing about Winamp’s leap into the world of smartphones and streaming is how long it took to happen. After all, it’s been 16 years since Apple introduced the iPhone and changed the way the world consumes media.

But for Winamp, the road to the mobile era was a rocky one. In 2013, the app narrowly avoided being shut down by its owner AOL, before being rescued by Belgian radio aggregator Radionomy. After a merger and a rebrand, that company is now Llama Group.

(The company’s name is a reference to the fact that Winamp uses a llama as its mascot. The original Winamp famously came with a default audio file called “Winamp, it really whips the llama’s ass.”)

“Winamp does not have the ambition to become a DSP, and indeed the idea is to be complementary to the existing streaming music ecosystem.”

Llama Group

Saboundjian announced as long ago as 2018 that the app would be relaunched for smartphones and would feature the ability to integrate streaming services.

The company is finally ready to put a date to that promise: Streaming integration will begin in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Llama Group’s goal is to grow the Winamp user base to 250 million people, and to get one million artists to set up shop at the Fanzone.

“A new generation of superfans are looking for new ways to spend money on, and engage with, their favorite artists. Winamp’s Fanzone offers them an opportunity to do just that,” Saboundjian said.Music Business Worldwide