Umar Farooq, head of JPMorgan's blockchain unit, called Onyx, recently told London-based media outlet Financial News that cryptocurrencies were still in their nascency, drawing parallels between the growth trajectories of crypto and audio streaming.
Farooq recalled how peer-to-peer file-sharing service Napster was all the rage in the late 90s despite being "clunky."
It allowed users to connect directly to each other in order to share millions of songs for free at the time when CD sales were at an all-time high, with The Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears alone selling a combined 17.7 million copies in 1999. Drowning in cash, labels were either too complacent to see the emerging digital revolution or failed to adapt quickly.
In February 2001, Napster reached an estimated 80 million users before it was forced to shut down following the ruling in the landmark copyright infringement lawsuit filed by heavy metal band Metallica.Farooq, who has been at the helm of Onyx since its inception in October 2020, says that crypto is not going away, but he struggles to predict how it will look in its "Spotify" era:
We are sitting in the Napster age. We just don't know what Spotify looks like. So, I think [crypto] is here to stay. I just don't know in what shape or form.
After piracy dealt the music industry a massive blow, which was partially cushioned by the rise of Apple's iTunes store in the 2000s, the Swedish company, Spotify, came to the rescue and completely changed how people consume music, ushering in the age of streaming over the past 10 years.
Farooq describes the current growth of the cryptocurrency industry as "a Cambrian explosion."