Downloaded: The SXSW Interview

SXSW Panel Reviews

Ballroom Dancing
Photo by John Anderson

Downloaded: The SXSW Interview

Austin 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.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Sean Parker
SXSW 2013 Film Reviews: 'Downloaded'
Daily reviews and interviews

Dan Solomon, March 15, 2013

More Shawn Fanning
Can't Touch This
Can't Touch This
South by Southwest Music panels remain as star-studded as actual showcases

Raoul Hernandez, March 2, 2012

Napster Gone Barbados
Napster Gone Barbados
Robot Monster vs. International Copyright Law

Tim Quirk, Aug. 24, 2001

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
X: The Godless Void and Other Stories (Record Review)

Alejandra Ramirez, Feb. 21, 2020

Texas Platters
Daniel Johnston
Chicago 2017 (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 21, 2020

More by Doug Freeman
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to

Sept. 25, 2020

New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to

Sept. 18, 2020


Sean Parker, Shawn Fanning, Alex Winter, Parker, Sean, Fanning, Shawn, Winter, Alex, Napster, Spotify

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle