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Sean Parker on the Board of Directors at Spotify

Sean Parker's Unfinished Business

Napster's cofounder wants to help restore the industry he once fought.

Why did you decide to invest in Spotify?

Sean Parker: This wasn't an economically motivated investment. It was a mission to try to restore the music industry. I felt a sense of unfinished business. Shawn [Fanning] and I got pretty far with Napster, but we weren't sophisticated enough to convince the labels that there was a viable model. We were very young and just not equipped to have conversations at a high level.

The full-circle moment had to be last fall when Metallica put their music on Spotify and you appeared onstage with their Napster-hating drummer, Lars Ulrich. I remember when he wanted to kill you.

Lars came to my wedding. We've become very good friends. Part of the motivation for that event was closing the loop on a weird footnote in the history of music. Once I got to know Lars, we found that our perspectives were much more similar than they were different. Both of us thought we were misinterpreted and exaggerated. Shawn and I were portrayed as rebel pirates who didn't want to work with the industry. They were stodgy dinosaurs fighting against their own fans.

In truth, they just wanted to send a message to any other rogue service not to use their music without first having a conversation. [Napster was] trying to negotiate to operate a legitimate service, but the labels had no interest in that.

Your "Hipster International" Spotify playlist is credited with helping to launch Lorde, the breakout New Zealand singer-songwriter, among others. Did you realize you had that kind of influence?

I have the largest human-curated playlist on the Internet, with close to 1 million followers. It started as a case study. Can you make curation work on this platform? It comes down to what program directors at radio stations have always done well. But we're now in a post-genre world: People just have songs.

You can reliably go to my list and find a song that's catchy and appealing, just left of center. It gets a huge amount of play in bars and clubs. We cracked the code. Now label executives pitch me songs to add.

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[Image: Flickr user LeWeb Photos]

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15 Comments

  • Stefan

    So S.P. is encouraging commercial establishments like bars and clubs to break the license agreement and use Spotify to play his playlist? I guess he's still up to his old Napster antics then, interesting.

  • Dylan James Reddy

    *Dylan James Reddy's Dream Team*
    Dylan James Reddy
    Future Girlfriend
    Melinda Gates (Microsoft & Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
    Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks & AXS)
    Sean Parker (Facebook & Spotify)

  • FedUpWithTheMainstream

    What the hell "dream team" is that? To flunk the world as we know it down the toilet at once?
    Microsoft, facebook... are you serious?

    Stop being an ass-licker man. Read a book (not steve jobs' bio please - try Woz's for a change of wind).

  • Maestro BK

    If American Millennials want to #win - follow this guy's road map. Don't lean on ur pedigree. What r u prepared to #DO?

  • ronald888

    Yeah, piggyback someone else's great idea and convince them they need to give you 10%!

  • Maestro BK

    Brilliant man. Self educated. Hard working. He deserves 49%. Give it to him.

  • Dylan James Reddy

    Why did you decide to invest in Spotify?
    Sean Parker: This wasn't an economically motivated investment. It was a mission to try to restore the music industry. I felt a sense of unfinished business. Shawn [Fanning] and I got pretty far with Napster, but we weren't sophisticated enough to convince the labels that there was a viable model. We were very young and just not equipped to have conversations at a high level.

  • timbo777

    "This wasn't an economically motivated investment. It was a mission to try to restore the music industry. I felt a sense of unfinished business." Haha. Yeah right.

  • LA

    He's right! Spotify is not nearly as good of an ROI as FB was for Sean. So he is technically right.