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Shawn Fanning On The Music Industry

April 26, 2009

Remember 1999? It was a huge year for humanity and it was a huge year for music.

Most people were wrapped up with the impending Y2K. Yet what people didn’t realize was that the biggest instrument of change was going to be Napster. A program written by a young Shawn Fanning in his dorm room. That single program changed the game of the music industry forever. It scared the shit out of major labels and started the landslide of lawsuits and file sharing that would follow.

Fast forward to 2009. A decade later and not that much has changed. The music has gotten better, Barack is in office, the major labels are still scared, and file sharing has become not a hobby, but a necessity for artists. Shawn Fanning sold Napster because it was being strangled to death by countless lawsuits. He tried to get a digital music company called Snocap going but it didn’t really take. He sold that too. Now he’s in the video game world developing a new niche social network (think Twitter for Vids).  The LATimes caught up with him and asked about about how he thought the music industry was doing, here’s what he said:

I definitely think it’s in rough shape. The margins for digital music are awful for everyone other than the record companies. You can’t do anything innovative because of all the [licensing] permissions involved. Ultimately, the industry doesn’t look at technology as an opportunity. One of my biggest personal disappointments is that the ability for people to discover interesting and obscure music has faded. That was one of the reasons I made Napster.

Interesting thoughts. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them but he does hits on some truths. The industry is in rough shape and yes there still is very little money involved for artists. But Fanning claims he made Napster for people to discover new music, and while people still can and do discover new artists on the net, it just takes more digging. There is no one stop shop for music. I doubt there ever will be. The filters are really the Napsters of today because file sharing is so ubiquitous online. So in many ways the idea of Napster just evolved and got better because Stereogum is much easier to use then a downloaded program.

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