I went to a panel discussion at the Austin Convention Center with Napster founders Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning. They're in a coming movie about what their invention wrought called Downloaded, and a new video social media site called Airtime getting ready to launch. Parker on particular is a gregarious, garrulous presence, and he said a few interesting things like "the stupider you are the more likely you are to create a viral video," while also talking about the music and entertainment industries' resistance to change and their collective "incredible fetishization of celebrity and money."
Parker, who was played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network, also has a hand in social-focused Swedish music streaming service Spotify, a company that he said is growing so fast that it "will overtake iTunes in terms of revenue in under two years." (There's also a Spotify house showcasing up and coming acts like Kimbra in Austin this year. More on that later.)
Walking out of that discussion, I turned into the SXSW day stage ball room where Michael Kiwanuka, the London songwriter of Ugandan heritage attracting lots of blog love, was playing an acoustic set, aided by a second guitarist. Is Kiwanuka the African Bill Withers? He played a terrific version of the American soul-rock great's "I Don't Know" as a set closer. Or is he the British Tracy Chapman? Or perhaps the black Jack Johnson? Kiwanuka, who's pictured, is a talented guy for sure, with a warm, rich voice. But so far, his music seems to me to be too tame and lulling for its own good. I only heard him for 15 minutes, but I'm not sold, not yet anyway.