I write this, because I feel the need to speak my mind.
I have been reading the stories about Napster for a while now, and with the recent court ruling, I might as well play pundit and weigh in with my opinion. Hell, I do it on everything else, and if I didn't go off on a tear about this, I'd be discussing the feeling of utter glee I am feeling at the misfortune of someone who tried to rip me a new orifice.
And you don't care about that.
You just want me to foam at the mouth a bit and waste a few minutes of the workday for you. Fine. I'll be your dancing monkey.
The recent court ruling has said that Napster's MP3 Trading program is a violation of copyright, and is robbing record companies of their royalties. Some bands have sued the company as well, and Napster has offered One Billion Dollars to settle the suit, saying that they will pay the royalties by changing their system from free to a subscription based system. A lot of creative people have warily came out against Napster (although they have found that doing so hurts their popularity) saying that they feel like they are getting ripped off. OK, more ripped off than by the record companies, which have ethics so low that vultures don't like being seen with them.
Good and valid points all. Artists should be paid for what they create. I am working on creating eBooks so people can buy my worthless typing and it would be ever so keen to get paid for the Weekly News Update, the Dronings as well as every other time I start pounding on a keyboard. People should be paid when you read a book, hear a song, watch a movie or TV show or any other form of artistic expression. Except for mime and school plays. They should pay you to watch that crap. Or at least let you kick the people involved in the ass.
However, I would be against the end of Napster for valid legal and artistic reasons.
I use Napster to try out CDs and artists that are never going to get played on commercial radio. I've heard good things about Nick Cave, Jack Off Jill, Leon Redbone, Catatonia, stuff from Cleopatria records and Killing Joke. I would like to try their music to see if it's something I would like. Except for the stuff off of Cleopatra records, then I just quit talking to people to tell me that I'd like that pain-inducing, quasi-Souxie Sue, art-school dog vomit for people who think that Deiter on Saturday Night Live was a role model and not a FUCKING PARODY!
Back to new music. My local radio station won't play it, the CD store will only let me listen to the "Top Ten" CDs and the bands that are already getting tons of airplay. Do you really need to sample Madonna's new album, or do you know already that if you liked her other overproduced pile of quasi-daring radio friendly pabulum, you'd like this overproduced pile of quasi-daring radio friendly pabulum?
Let's face it, there isn't a lot of difference in a lot of bands. If anyone can tell me an artistic difference between the Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, The New Kid On The Block, The Bugaloos and The Bay City Rollers, I just have one thing to say.
Put down the CD player and walk out of the house. Just set it down and walk away, the ambulance will be along shortly.
Without some valid form of sampling what's on a CD, I, as a consumer am screwed and Heaven knows Sam Goody isn't going to give me a reach-around, let alone a good kiss.
Let's say I buy a CD and don't like it, that's $15 flushed and it make me even MORE cautious about buying bands I haven't heard before. With movies, I don't have to buy it. I can watch it in a theater, or on TV, or rent it, and if I like it, I can go to the store and buy it. If I pick up the new Adam Sandler movie without at least seeing it, it's my own fault for buying the piece of crap, and I deserve to lose my cash at the very least and probably deserve a good beating with a cement block as well.
"People are stealing music and making sales go down," is another argument.
Owlshit. CD sales were up over 10% last year and the music that was put out last year sucked harder than Britany Spears getting her record deal. People get the song, like it and look for the CD. Plain and simple. I buy more music now that I have Napster. I got a weird craving to hear some old Devo, downloaded a couple of songs, and because I liked it more than I remembered, I went out and bought their 2 CD compilation. Wouldn't have done that if not for Napster. I'm a HUGE Killing Joke fan now, but wouldn't have gone near them if I hadn't downloaded a couple of songs first. Smaller groups are benefiting even more. Aimee Mann didn't even HAVE a record contract when she was tapped to do the soundtrack to Magnolia, and her stuff was only available on MP3. Six months later she's up for an Oscar on a song that was first available on her website and on Napster.
The other reason Napster is around and should stay around is the fact that you can get rare recordings. On my Napster I have Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon doing Day Tripper in 1967, a DJ Remix of the battle music from Final Fantasy VII, a bunch of sound clips from the old TV show The Critic, and rare Bill Hicks comedy routines. Is that stuff for sale anywhere? Nope. Wouldn't sell a couple hundred thousand copies, so it isn't worth the record companies time. It's the same thing with bootlegs of live concerts, they would sell to a limited audience if they were available, but they aren't. Since they would sell thousands of copies instead of millions, they get ignored. Until it's time to go after people, then it's a difference story, because they can make the same amount of profit with a lawsuit that they would make with a pressing. And lawsuits give the legal department something to do other than surf the net for free porn.
I have also downloaded songs I have on vinyl, cassette and other formats that just aren't practical anymore. Is it fair that I have to purchase music more than once? I am a big Rush fan (Yeah and I used to play D&D, and I still play video games. Bite me. I'm still cooler than you. When the last time YOU wore a cape to work and got away with it? How about the last time three hot gothy girls sat down next to you in a pizza place to ask about your hair? I thought so. Bugger off.) and I first bought their work on vinyl albums. Then, I had to buy it on CD when they quit making phonograph needles for less than $200, and they quit putting their new work on vinyl. Now vinyl is just a way to buy obscure old music and a perfect fabric for women to wear if they want me to decompose into a worshipful mass.
Should I have to buy it AGAIN when a new format is introduced because the record companies want to squeeze us again for a new copy of Moving Pictures? The amount of money being made off that in the 80's and early 90's is one of the dirty little secrets of the record industry, and believe me, the marketing people are drooling over the new forms of music delivery because they can sell you The Eagles Greatest Hits for the 4th time, and the don't even have to talk to musicians, let alone get them to produce something new.
Shall we go into the price of CDs? Nah. They cost too much. Case closed. When CDs came out, they were able to double the cost of buying music because we were pretty dumb back then. "The new technology costs more!" No, it costs less to make a CD, but we stupidly agreed, bought the CDs and created the careers of Allanis Morrisette and Milli Vanilli because we didn't know any better.
It's things like this that have turned the consumer against the recording industry. So we don't much feel a pang of guilt when we rip them off. Yeah, we're stealing songs, but you are bending us over a table and having your way with us when we buy concert tickets that are $50, and the fees to buy them come to half that. And the seats suck because all the good seats were given to people in the industry, radio stations and whoever those idiots are who hold up a damn banner even though they are in the front row.
It's not like the record industry is the only one where you can get "free stuff" through a lot of work. You can freely copy movies all the time and the movie industry is very happy about their income. Why? They make money off of admissions, video sales and rental, a selling broadcast rights, advertising in the movies themselves, on the video tapes and when they are on TV. Besides, it's so cheap to buy a movie after a certain amount of time it's cheaper to buy it than pirate it. The record industry should look seriously at the models that have been proposed (advertising, subscription fees, sacrificing goats to the dark lords who run the recording industry) instead of going after the people who want their product and are constantly frustrated at getting it. We want music, dammit. You've killed it on the radio, MTV hasn't shown a video without Carson Daly talking through the damn thing since right after they showed "Video Killed The Radio Star" and
I have read some people say that Napster is like selling used CDs and as such there shouldnt be a problem with it.
Am I the only one who remembers how in the early 90's, the record companies were trying to stop the sale of used CDs? They tried the courts, that didn't work, so they tried to cut off the distribution to stores that sold used CDs (which killed more than a few stores here in Minneapolis). When that didn't stomp it out, they had some of the more...shall we say prostituted performers go on the talk show circuit to say that it was taking money away from the artists. Garth Brooks actually cried on Leno when he spoke about it. Made me go out and buy more used CDs, actually.
I made a joke back when the whole thing started in my Weekly News Update (available on at this website, subscribe you worthless bastards!) that the record companies were mad because they were only making billions of dollars instead of billions and billions of dollars. Artists should be paid for their work. But people have to be able to get the work...and Napster shows that their current method of delivery isn't working.
We get music free on the radio, and the royalties are paid through both advertising, and the record companies controlling what gets played, using hit singles as advertisements themselves for the full CDs and concerts. Napster could easily run with ad money or with a subscription fee, but I doubt that will make the record companies happy. When they sell CD singles for $4.99, do you think theyll be happy making a few million a month that way? Nope. They want to control the flow of what gets played (so that the artists they control get the most sales), how it gets sold and how much we pay for it.
Yeah, thats right, control what we hear. Smaller bands who arent signed to labels are very excited about Napster, since it is next to impossible for them to get heard. Why? Record companies LIKE bands that have signed with them. Their business model makes them virtual slaves, and very little of that money goes to the artist.
What the hell am I talking about?
Lets say your band Tumbling Clowns gets signed and you get a nice hefty signing bonus of $250,000. That signing bonus comes from your future royalties. Your CD sells, but doesnt make you $250,000 in royalties, so you owe your record company another CD to pay that money back (and yes, they charge interest). That isnt counting touring, where the cost of those green M&Ms comes out of your royalties, flying you to be on Conan OBrian which comes out of your royalties, your manager whose salary comes out of your royalties...and so on. Working to pay for what you bought at the company store is alive and well in the music industry and unless you are a megastar, you are on a treadmill you can never catch up on. Just ask MC Hammer who had two platinum albums and STILL owes his old label money.
Napster is morally ambiguous, but has a model that could be used to break the stranglehold big companies have on what we get to buy and listen to. Personally, I think thats what they fear more than a bunch of college students getting a free copy of Barbie Girl to listen to while they try to pick each other up in chat rooms. Their biggest fear is that we finally say that were sick of that crap on the radio and want to hear something new without telling the 5 major record companies what it is.
Back to the Dronings.