Thursday may have been a big day for Facebook, with its announcement of new features for sharing music and other media, but Napster co-founder Sean Parker was the one who threw the wildest celebration.
Big parties with famous performers are part of the ritual at tech conferences. Nonetheless, even jaded tech journalists were impressed by the lavishness of Parker's event. Invites went out the day before, telling recipients, "Sean Parker cordially invites you to a celebration of music," and promising "killer musical performances to follow."
The location, an unnamed address near Facebook's F8 conference in San Francisco, turned out to be a warehouse, which the event organizers filled with enormous couches. Near the entrance, waiters served roast pig and lobster, while bartenders hacked off pieces of a giant ice cube for cocktails. Near the stage, there was an area reserved for press, with a bottle of DeLeón Tequila next to each seat.
Parker has a lot to celebrate. He's working on a new video startup called Airtime with his Napster co-founder Shawn Fanning. Through the Founders Fund, he's an investor in music startup Spotify, one of the key partners in Facebook's new music service. And he was famously involved in the early days of Facebook itself.
Those early days were depicted in The Social Network, and even though Parker has called the movie a "complete work of fiction," on Thursday night he joked that there was one benefit to being played on-screen by Justin Timberlake—Snoop Dogg, Jane's Addiction, The Killers, and Kaskade all showed up for his event (which he said was thrown together in a couple of days), apparently unaware that they'd be performing for "a bunch of nerds."
Before the music started, Parker and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek took the stage to trade compliments. Ek said that the launch of Napster a decade ago was "the biggest event of my life, when it comes to the Internet." Parker, in turn, said that his first encounter with Ek was one of the most important events of his life, up there with meeting Fanning (who was in attendance) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (who showed up later in the evening). He also called Spotify the first online music service that could really compete with piracy, and he said it could allow musicians to once again make money from music itself rather than relying on touring and other ancillary sales.
"I believe music has intrinsic value," Parker said.
Following Parker and Ek was a panel of musicians and managers who talked about Spotify's impact, but the crowd seemed impatient for the party to start. So the panel wrapped up quickly, and the music began. First up was The Killers (or rather, the two members who could make it to what frontman Brandon Flowers called a "spur of the moment" event, plus two fill-ins). For the first few minutes, attendees bobbed their heads from their chairs, then Parker charged to the front of the room and shouted, "Come on, stand up! Stand up!" And everyone did.