Sean Parker, the billionaire of Napster and Facebook fame, is on to his next big deal: Spotify, which started in Europe and is now offering streaming music in the U.S.
In a conversation with Spotify chief executive Daniel Ek, Parker said that the rise of Spotify and other music streaming services and the debut of their integration with Facebook today fulfilled the original vision he had for Napster. And that vision wasn’t about music piracy.
“This is actually very similar to what I dreamt of 10 years ago,” Parker said, speaking on stage at a press event after Facebook’s f8 event. (That’s Parker on the right in the above photo; Ek is on the left in the “Suits Suck” t-shirt.) “We never really wanted to create a service to destroy the record business or hurt artists in any way. The goal was really to create a more frictionless system. We really believed we would succeed in striking deals with the record labels.”
Parker predicted no less than a rebirth of the music business itself, thanks to better music discovery through the combination of Facebook and Spotify.
Parker was a co-founder of Napster, an early shepherd of Facebook, and is now an investor in Spotify. He was such a unique and interesting character that he was played by Justin Timberlake in the movie The Social Network, a fictionalized account of the founding of Facebook. In real life, he played a role in cracking the foundations of the old music business, and now he’s looking to rebuild it.
Parker and Ek held their discussion in a warehouse in San Francisco with opulent party trimmings. The catered meal included roasted pigs, oysters, bottles of tequila, and sushi. The entertainment included The Killers, Jane’s Addiction, and Snoop Dogg.
Ek said that Napster, the disruptive music sharing service started by Parker and Shawn Fanning (who was also there tonight), inspired him when he was growing up.
“Napster for me personally was probably the biggest event in my life when it comes to the internet,” Ek said. It really changed how I considered music, my favorite artists, how I shared music with friends.”
And Parker said, “Meeting Daniel was one of the three key moments in my life, alongside meeting Shawn Fanning and meeting Mark Zuckerberg.”
Facebook today announced that Spotify would be integrated into Facebook so that a friend could listen to a song at the very same moment another friend was listening to it, in a kind of social music discovery. Spotify’s iPhone app, which offers users convenience, requires a subscription fee. Users can now listen to music, watch TV, or view movies without ever leaving Facebook.
“If you want full portability, you have to pay,” Parker said. “The iPhone version has paved the way for that. This was ultimately the most important element in monetization. The element that consumers were wiling to pay for was convenience.”
Parker added, “Solving the music piracy problem can’t happen unless you build a music service that is more convenient than piracy. It didn’t compete with any of the existing services like iTunes or Napster. It competed with piracy.”
The most important unanswered question? Parker said, “Music discovery has always been social. Obviously there has been these top-down media like MTV and radio, but so much music discovery has happened by word of mouth in a dorm room, people going to clubs or hearing music in a restaurant. That social process has always been the real fuel.”
With Facebook, Spotify can now “supercharge that discovery,” Parker said. “More people will experience music than ever before. As long as that is coupled with a monetization platform that actually works, we have a solution.”
Here’s some video of the full conversation between Parker and Ek below. And below that we have a panel of industry artists and managers talking about the significance of Spotify. The panel includes Jane’s Addiction lead singer Perry Farrell, Brandon Creed (manager for Bruno Mars), producer Ray Romulus, Paul Rosenberg (Eminem’s manager) and disc jockey Kaskade. Afterward, the Killers opened the show and Parker danced next to me. At the bottom is the Killers performing.