Executive General Partner
POWER MOVE: With Spotify helping some markets return to growth, he’s a former disruptor turned problem solver.
THE RUNDOWN: Some people see the music industry for what it is. But Sean Parker sees it for what it could become. When he co-founded Napster, the record industry was enjoying an all-time financial high, but Parker dramatically altered the course of how recorded music was distributed and monetized, with entire companies and careers irrevocably altered or even destroyed as a result.
Tom Silverman, founder of Tommy Boy Entertainment (who interviewed Parker at the 2012 New Music Seminar), says the tech kingpin’s power is turning a belief into a reality. “Sean is both a player and a visionary, a rare combination,” Silverman says. “He sees a different world and acts as if it is already manifest. Spotify is a perfect example.”
As executive general partner at venture capital firm Founders Fund and a Spotify board member, Parker now tempts the record industry with a solution for its many problems: an on-demand subscription service operating on a global scale. With 5 million current subscribers and a steadily growing user base, Spotify is the world’s biggest subscription service and is helping some markets return to growth. Last year, recorded-music revenue was up 7% in Norway and 14% in Sweden.
Parker is rarely a silent partner in his investments. In December, he interviewed Lars Ulrich of Metallica, which sued Napster in 2000 for copyright infringement, when Spotify added the band’s music to its service. He has appeared on late-night TV, becoming something of a pop-culture touchstone after Justin Timberlake portrayed him in “The Social Network,” the 2010 film about Facebook. But less visible was Parker’s role in bringing together Spotify and Facebook, having served at the latter as president during its early days. Often a mysterious presence who’s equally worshipped and reviled, his influence on the future of music is undeniable.