Downloaded: The SXSW Interview
SXSW Panel Reviews
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., March 16, 2012
Downloaded: The SXSW InterviewAustin Convention Center, Wednesday, March 14
It's easy to look back and laugh at all the disastrous mistakes and miscalculations of Napster from atop a mountain of cash, so perhaps it's not surprising that founders Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning are now able to offer such a candid perspective on the cataclysmic rise and crash of their infamous peer-to-peer music-sharing platform. "We were both totally inexperienced and didn't know what we were doing," admitted Parker to actor Alex Winter, director of upcoming Napster documentary Downloaded. Parker and Fanning provided no shortage of hindsight in trying to decipher what all went wrong with the company. And nearly everything went wrong, from poor hiring and management decisions to legal assaults completely unanticipated by the then-teenagers. "Our CEO was literally an attorney," emphasized Parker onstage. "The legal case was dictating the product." What the interview highlighted, however, is that as the digital music revolution matures, Napster's legacy is being more finely spun. The early disruptive innovations are now bookended with the promise of the Parker-invested streaming service, Spotify, and with the two co-founders reuniting in their new start-up, Airtime, that spin is now also pushing Napster as a precedent to serendipitous social connection online. Regardless, the history of Napster will continue to evolve over the next decade as the invention that opened the Pandora's box of digital distribution and online rights.