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Jon Irwin in Rhapsody's downtown Seattle HQ.

Rhapsody’s acquisition of Napster from Best Buy gives the Seattle-based music service an opportunity to add a “meaningful” number of subscribers to its customer base, says Rhapsody’s president, Jon Irwin, weighing in on a deal that surprised the tech industry when it was announced earlier today.

Speaking via phone with GeekWire this afternoon, Irwin downplayed the threat from Spotify’s U.S. launch and said the Napster deal is consistent with Rhapsody’s strategy of making select acquisitions and striking strategic partnerships, such as its recent deal to offer its music service to MetroPCS subscribers.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Irwin said it was an all-equity deal, with Best Buy trading the Napster assets for a minority stake in Rhapsody. Best Buy gets to keep a foot in the door of the streaming music industry, with an ownership interest that complements its retail sales of music devices.

At the time of Best Buy’s 2008 acquisition, Napster said it had 700,000 subscribers, according to CNet, which broke the news of Rhapsody’s Napster acquisition earlier today. Rhapsody has more than 800,000 subscribers, up from 700,000 prior to its spin-off from RealNetworks last year.

Rhapsody isn’t confirming how many subscribers Napster has today, but Irwin said Rhaposdy considers Napster its nearest competitor. Rhapsody will be seeking to convert as many of those users as possible into paying Rhapsody subscribers after the deal closes, scheduled for late November.

“We’re excited about the growth that it’s going to bring to the overall Rhapsody base,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of wind in our sails.”

That outlook might be a surprise to some following the U.S. launch of the European music service Spotify and its popular free version, in addition to a subscription service that competes directly with Rhapsody. But Irwin said Spotify could actually be a positive for Rhapsody, by bringing more attention to on-demand music service. He pointed out that Spotify’s free version is a limited experience, without the ability to play songs on a mobile device.

“It’s like taking Mick Jagger out of the Rolling Stones if you don’t have mobile in your on-demand music experience,” Irwin said. “It’s that important.”

Earlier on GeekWire: Breaking: Rhapsody to buy Napster from Best Buy

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