Moses Supposes: Sean Parker, high-tech mob boss

Moses Avalon is one of the nation’s leading music-business consultants and artists’-rights advocates and is the author of a top-selling music business reference, Confessions of a Record Producer. More of his articles can be found at

Is there no limit to this guy’s narcissism?  The old saying goes, “When three people tell you you’re drunk, maybe you should sit down.”  When the US Supreme Court says, “You are a thief who stole from millions of artists,” and when the Attorney General investigates you for 400 million counts of computer trespass, and then, finally, when Hollywood casts you as the villain in the hottest movie of the season, maybe it’s time you take a look at your values.

With Limewire now due for permanent shutdown, the blogs are lit up with opinions on the fallout. Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster, thinks all this will do is create more heads of the hydra — in other words, more P2P will spawn from the death of Limewire, thus validating his 2001 position that the labels are fighting a losing battle against piracy and should just give up. Clearly, the tech-heads agree with their icon, even if the statistics tell a different story: piracy is passé, the lawsuits worked, and the “free music” generation is growing up and opting in.

The universe has given Parker gifts of amazing proportions: a super-high IQ and a sophisticated knack for lateral thinking that approaches da Vinci. One has to wonder why some people, with such clear and obvious aptitude for creating great things, would devote their efforts to ripping off, of all people, musicians, the most vulnerable and underpaid artist group on the planet. If anyone deserves to rot in a cell, it’s the executives and boards of places like Limewire. Three people didn’t tell them they were drunk; several separate courts did. How can anyone have any sympathy for these fools?

One has to wonder why some people, with such clear and obvious aptitude for creating great things, would devote their efforts to ripping off, of all people, musicians, the most vulnerable and underpaid artist group on the planet.

Yet Parker seems to think they are victims of ignorant times. I can understand why. Like many on the tech side of the argument, he’s dug in. He is well invested in his opinion with no way to save face by reversing his stance. He’s not alone. Even some on the content side of the fence were seduced by Limewire’s vigilance. CD Baby, as well as TuneCore, who should have rejected Limewire in support of artists, was sucked (or suckered) into desperate deals with them.

But Parker has a super-charged self-spin cycle that always seems to put his morality in the hero role. “I beat the record labels,” his character (played by Justin Timberlake in an Oscar-worthy performance) says in The Social Network. “But the labels won,” replies another character. “Yeah,” Parker says, “[but only] in court.”

Is his avatar implying that he won in the eyes of the public? Is his ego over-fictionalized? Not really.

“I’ve helped change the world three times,” he’s quoted on the Death and Taxes site as well as his Vanity Fair puff piece that actually intimates that he’s working on a cure for cancer. (I want his publicist.)

Okay, Sean, but did you change it for the better?

Napster: millions in lost revenue to artists and labels and the creation of false hope to companies like Limewire, foolishly believing your hype about what is “fair use.” Hundreds of millions in legal fees, and wasting public resources to stifle Kazaa and others.

Facebook: presently the number-one priority of the Attorney General as well as other government entities, for computer trespass, invasion of privacy, and fraud.

And now his involvement in Spotify, a company that once again is warming up for a war by pointing the “greed” finger at labels because they will not lower licensing fees, thus blocking the service from entering the States. Spotify is losing money, according to reports, and I’m sure Parker will not see this as his failure, or a retribution by the industry he took a dump on, but the fault of his arch nemesis — section 102 of the US Copyright Act.

Dude, have you seen The Social Network? You’re the frigging bad guy. Pay attention.

A guy this smart, this young, this privileged, this motivated, but this craggy needs to be watched as carefully as we watch some third-world dictators building a “harmless” nuclear power plant to heat small villages.

I have to wonder what kind of upbringing he had. Are his parents proud? Parker’s family gave him a first-rate education and he used it to become a high-tech mob boss. And who did he shake down? Musicians. When Spotify fails in the US, where to next will Parker turn to “change the world” for a fourth time?

Maybe he should pioneer a program that steals money from the Federal Reserve and redistributes it to those who lost their homes — after all, if music should be free, then certainly homes should too. Let’s see how he likes spreading his twisted morality against the power of the US Treasury. Think they will be more understanding than the RIAA or the AG?

Maybe if you actually cure cancer instead of just showing up for a fundraiser.


Mo out.

Leave a Comment