John MacFarlane is a man in the middle of the music industry. As the CEO of Sonos, which has been making home speakers for about a decade, he has watched as the music business has wrestled with change—from the fights over digital rights management and piracy to the current debates over business models, compensation for labels and artists, and users’ shifting habits.
As new services for streaming music have proliferated, Sonos has partnered with many of them, attempting to become a one-stop shop for listening to music wirelessly throughout a home. But now, the world’s biggest technology companies are eyeing its turf, with plans to roll out more home entertainment devices as they try to take over the living room.
Sonos, like the headset-and-speaker manufacturer Jawbone and the camera-maker GoPro, can’t just be a hardware company anymore. It needs to provide innovative software and services too if it’s to persuade customers to stick with its devices amid a sea of new choices. The company, which is still private and has raised more than $300 million in venture capital, sells speakers for $199 and up.
The affable executive spoke with The Information about the landgrab for streaming music services, the ghost of Steve Jobs and Sonos as an acquisition target.