Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen recently passed away, and is remembered as a tech billionaire and noted philanthropist. The Seattle music industry was among the beneficiaries of his generosity, with Allen helping to foster the creative sector.
Paul Allen was a co-founder of Microsoft and hence a “tech billionaire.” But he used that wealth to make a contribution to music in smart and lasting ways through supporting music in Seattle and by doing so being an important voice for our business whether we knew it or not. And of course he was a sailor, making great contributions on and below the surface.
In particular, Paul Allen made significant contributions to what became KEXP, one of the most important voices in independent radio and a lifeline for indie artists and labels. Better known was his support for Experience Music project (now MoPop) which is truly one of the few and the great music museums in the world.
Through his Vulcan Ventures venture capital operation, Mr. Allen invested in many music related technologies and companies in a largely behind the scenes way, and also was a major underwriter of The Blues miniseries with PBS, which he executive produced. Each of the seven films comprising The Blues was a stand-alone film, including The Soul of a Man directed by Wim Wenders that was honored with an out of competition screening at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003 with the series winning two Grammys.
Mr. Allen in his own way had as much of an impact on music and the music business as any executive. He understood the ecosystem and did what he could to use technology generously in a host of ways, including for the benefit of creators.
When we criticize tech billionaires there’s a particular bite given the passion and support of Paul Allen. There’s a special wistfulness now that he’s gone.