When Napster co-founders Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker took the stage after the world premiere of the new documentary Downloaded at SXSW, about the rise and fall of their revolutionary music-sharing service, they were met with tremendous applause. That, says director Alex Winter (Bill from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, incidentally), was a moment of tremendous relief and vindication.
“The guys were just happy to see the public liked it,” says Winter, 47, who first met the tech entrepreneurs back in 2002 and has been working to bring Napster’s story to light for over a decade. He himself was an early web adopter and distinctly remembers his first introduction to Napster. “Someone on news groups said, ‘We should just move over to Napster, it’s a lot easier to talk,’” he remembers. “These were dial-up days. You didn’t talk online. And so I swapped over to Napster and suddenly I was in real-time chat in somebody’s hard drive. And they were in Japan! We had a global community overnight that was absolutely incredible.”
He reached out to Fanning and was taken with how their entire conversation revolved not around music piracy but in this notion of creating a global community. On the flip side, Winter had made a name for himself as a prolific music director, working with artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ice Cube. “I had major investment in the record industry and the music business and I know a lot of bands,” he says. “It wasn’t like I was super pro-Napster. I just really understood how gigantic the change was that they had been part of enacting. Napster wasn’t two backwards baseball cap-wearing guys who wanted to get Madonna tracks for free, which is how people think of them. Napster was created by two very brilliant global visionaries who wanted to create a global community. And they did. And it worked! And that paved the way for everything that’s happened since then.”
Watch a trailer for the doc below. READ FULL STORY