Napster co-founder Sean Parker is rumored to be part of a consortium of investors bidding on Warner Music Group. Although Parker isn’t part of the formal bid, MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka reports that Parker is aligned with a group of investors led by Ron Burkle and Doug Teitelbaum. Considering that Napster was the first big shove to send the mainstream record labels down the slippery slope to obsolescence — and that Warner was part of the consortium that sued Napster into bankruptcy — it’s quite a turn of fate. That’s sort of like hearing Julian Assange does security consulting for the U.S. military or Google wants to invest in newspapers.
Why would Parker, who recently debuted on Forbes’s list of the richest people in the world with $1.6 (theoretical) billion, want a piece of a dying breed? Parker has been working as both an adviser and investor for Spotify, a streaming music service. Although Spotify is very popular in Europe, with a million paying subscribers and 7 million users, music labels like Warner have kept the streaming service out of the U.S. market. Parker could have joined the investing consortium in order to help Spotify license Warner’s content. But there are cheaper ways to do that. The more likely scenario, says Kafka, is that Parker thinks Warner’s catalogue is undervalued, “in part because of the digital revolution [Parker] helped usher in.” Crippling an industry isn’t cool. Crippling an industry then scooping up its underpriced remains is cool.