Sean Parker. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Infamous, yet revered, Sean Parker’s legacy lives on much the same way it began. The notorious computer hacker behind Napster has been raved over; despised; fired; arrested; and most recently depicted by Justin Timberlake in the 2010 Oscar-winning film, The Social Network. Good or bad, he’s made his name known and created the landscape on which the Internet had grown against. Now worth an estimated $1.3 billion, the tech behemoth’s Forbes page indicates the depth of this success:
“Parker currently lives in San Francisco, although he frequently travels to Los Angeles, New York City, Stockholm, and London,” says his entry in Wikipedia. “His prior $20 million townhouse in Manhattan included an indoor pool, 30-foot bamboo plants, and an entrance hall adorned with the sides of an old New York subway train.”
The high life at its most extravagant.
Yet as much as Parker’s wealth has accumulated, his aims are equally far-reaching. He once set out to bring the web into the spotlight, and now that he’s done so, he seeks complete domination.
“Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley? SV=1, HW=0. Revenge of the nerds! #NerdSpring,” he tweeted in January. “The victory in SOPA/PIPA really belongs to all of us; the population of the Internet harnessing its untapped political power.”
From the defunct file-sharing network that is his roots to his latest project, Spotify, a growing music-streaming service, Parker remains at the forefront of the online revolution. As an article in Vanity Fair points out, the 32-year-old is “widely considered a web oracle,” and while his career continues to prosper, he’s also had enough low points to prove he’s not invincible – just a savvy player with an interest in the good life.
While Parker didn’t go to college, he has said in the past that he obtained extensive schooling through his trials and errs in the field of computer science. Reports Vanity Fair, he’s got “a knack for missing deadlines and appointments, for disappearing for weeks on end, for avoiding the press. He was pushed out of Facebook after an arrest for cocaine possession in 2005.” Yet nothing appears to bring him down for long.
“I think the best way to describe me is as an archetypal Loki character,” Parker tells the outlet. “Like Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces. I’m like the prankster or Puck in mythology. He’s not trying to cause harm, but rather to pull back the veil that masks your conventional, collectively reinforced understanding of society. This renegade thing was very clear at Napster. The point was that the emperor—the content industry—had no clothes…This all probably sounds incredibly pretentious and narcissistic.”
In The Social Network, Parker was depicted as slick, conniving, and self-serving, but these traits he will not validate. In fact, he says the movie was false.
“The part of the movie that frustrated me is actually the scene at the end where the character played by Justin Timberlake — who happens to have my name — basically writes a check to Eduardo – who I’m also, I consider Eduardo a friend of mine, and I’m one of the few people at Facebook who still interacts with Eduardo – and throws it in his face and has security escort him out of the building,” Parker says, reports Mashable. “And I mean, that’s just rude. This guy in the movie is a morally reprehensible human being.”
After putting the entire music industry up in arms with Napster, some might argue there’s a lot to dislike about Parker. The way he sees it though, it’s all about evolution, and adapting to the new economy. Following Napster’s shut down, Parker got involved with Mark Zuckerberg, becoming his advisor and the first President of Facebook (remember the scene in The Social Network where he persuades Zuck to come to Silicon Valley and, literally, party like a rock star?) But Parker partied a little too hard and was forced to resign from the company following the drug scandal, albeit with a lofty severance. Even so, Zuckerberg continues to give Parker credit for his genius, which is a big compliment considering the source.
Today, Parker spends most of his time finding and managing investments for the venture capitalist firm, Founders Fund, and helping to build up Spotify, which has become his greatest passion. There are hurdles, of course, but it seems the web mogul believes this program is the extension of what he started with Napster under the guidance and instruction of the law. Furthermore, with Spotify, Parker merges the idea of social media and music streaming, a project he calls “the answer to piracy” and what he believes will incidentally revive the music industry.
Accordingly, he equates himself with the likes of Jim Morrison and Jack Kerouac, someone who has shifted the tides, lived on the edge and taken the fall periodically in order to lead a revolution.
“They were capable of folly,” Parker tells Vanity Fair, “and willing to take risks in terms of their message.”
Parker’s message is clear – go bold.