Shawn Fanning, the original bad-boy of the Web 1.0 revolution, is now officially history. In an WSJ article today entitled “Where Are They Now”, we learn that Napster founder Fanning, is involved with a legal peer-to-peer start-up called Snocap. Poor old Fanning. He looks a bit of a digital loser these days -- bemused, out-of-sync, like a lottery winner who misplaced his ticket. And well he might. He’s the ultimate footnote note now, a Trivial Pursuit question, the now forgotten chapter before the iPod.
Still, Fanning did briefly change the world, even if that world has now left him behind. Napster once really was radical. It was the bridge between the original digital music plays like Liquid Audio & MP3.com, and today’s thriving online music industry. Napster represents the 1905 of the digital music upheaval. Fanning's start-up had to fail for the revolution to succeed.
So is the future of music now or is it still ahead of us? I am moderating a conversation on this very subject at Berkeley’s Cybersalon on Sunday May 21 (from 5.00-7.00 pm). Mark it in your calendar because it should be a spirited discussion. Panelists include Gerd Leonhard, author of The Future of Music; Tom Conrad, CTO of Pandora; Brian Zisk, founder and board member of the Future of Music Coalition; and Amy Tobin, singer, composer, and multimedia show producer, who will also perform at the event. No Shawn Fanning, though, I am afraid. The Napster founder is the past future of music. He is the first antique of our digital age.