Sean Parker: Spotify attempting to finish what started at Napster

Napster's founder argues that most of the traditional limitations of the music industry are now gone, opening the door for Spotify and other digital music lockers.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sean Parker's interests in revolutinionzing the music industry, so to speak, are well known from his early days as a co-founder of Napster. His current efforts on this horizon are focused on Spotify.

"These historical limitations that defined the dynamics of the record business no longer any sense," said Parker, while speaking at the Web 2.0 Summit on Monday afternoon.

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Parker described Spotify as an "attempt to finish" what he started with Napster, being that it is a "dream of frictionless-free, tiered service that enables music sharing."

"We're all trying to figure out what is that next music industry," Parker admitted. "There's a whole set of things we have to figure out when moving to digital distribution."

In the physical world, you can only make so many CDs and there's only so much shelf space, Parker explained. There's also only a limited number of radio stations per market, so there's even less room to promote new artists.

Continuing on, the "traditional gate keepers of music" as Parker described them, ranging from radio stations to MTV, that were "not selecting the music that met the best needs of the public" have been replaced by the online social world.

"The dream with Spotify was ultimately to integrate Facebook and Spotify so that viral distribution could be unlocked," Parker said, asserting that that less than half of music sold today is done on CDs.

Parker offered the example of the band Foster The People, which he said came out of "virtually nowhere," and then within three months of online publicity and promotion on services like Spotify, the once-indie group is now a huge hit.

"I don't think we're ever going to get it completely right," Parker acknowledged. "The world is changing so quickly that it's very hard to get anything right for long."

Parker's aspirations to fix the media industry might not be limited to just music.

"On-demand TV is so screwed up," Parker argued.

Moving back to one of Parker's more notable time and money investments, Facebook, he had plenty of good words to say about the world's social network, but acknowledged that its problem is the "glut of information" that users have to deal with.

"There's good creepy and then there's bad creepy," Parker said, pondering if "today's creepy is tomorrow's necessity."

Parker, originally scheduled to speak later during the summit, replaced Zynga founder and CEO Mark Pincus as the opening speaker.

Pincus had been locked down for the interview a month ago, according to John Battelle, founder and chairman of Federated Media Publishing. But as of the end of last week, Pincus canceled and no explanation was revealed. Let the those IPO rumors continue.


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