The Best Things in Life are Free
posted by Filippo on 8/12/01
In the early months of 2001 we were beguiled by a series of press conferences containing a romper room of record industry weasels who spouted off the evils of the Napster system while diligently trying to avoid choking on their own concoction of smug hypocrisy mixed with unabashed greed. Napster founder and Internet maverick Shawn Fanning is flanked by suits paradoxically looking out of place considering he is sporting a finely cut one as well. He wears a combining look. One of solemn knowing he is fighting a battle he will not win, along with a self-assured smiled that all of this teeth grinding and sweat pouring is over a bold idea he conceived while goofing around in his dorm room. The goal of this gathering is to crush the Napster musical uprising and regain supremacy and dominance in the world of music.
Score one for the bad guys.
The weight of the corporate thumb applying pressure to Napster slowly started to yield results for the record industry. Where you once had an endless musical catalog at your disposal being greeted by one to three million users, was eventually turned into a barren wasteland where you were lucky to find 100,000 users. Everything was cleverly blocked imposing on the user a vocab manipulation and mangling of songs and artists in a desperate attempt to find what you are looking for. The end of the day was soon spelled as, Napster went offline in early July and the Napster we once knew is now fast on the road to irrelevance if it hasn't arrived there already.
With good reason the record industry says, rights were being infringed upon. And if you look at things in strictly black and white terms, they make a strong case. But the world isn't just black or white, there are Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans and other ethnic backgrounds. When you purchase a pack of crayola crayons you just don't get a box containing two colors. So when you look beyond the hype and the title to a Michael Jackson song, problems start to arise.
See, us consumers are in the same boat as the record industry. We can feel their pain. Our rights have been trampled on like a herd of pachyderms too. Years ago, word leaked out that CD prices were illegally overpriced, which was on the same surprise level of releasing a study that NBA players cheat on their wives. Interestingly enough the story began and ended with that statement. Still, seven years later if you are planning to go to Tower Records to buy a couple of CD's, you better have an ATM strapped on the hood of your Toyota. On top of that cake there is a trend following industry besieged with over commercialization with manufactured teen pop drivel produced by the pound, forcing a Sherlock Holmes type effort to find desirable substantial music. Yes, we know a thing or two about our rights being put in a blender and dumped on our feet.
Beyond that, a simple common sense question to pose when you lock the attorneys in the closet and you leave the ego maniacal stars at home to count their money. Who was Napster really hurting? And was it helping more then hurting? Remember these are the same people that thought cassette tapes and the mass dubbing that would ensue would bring the grim reaper knocking at the door of the record biz.
As we know common sense often takes a seat way in the back as it sits quietly undisturbed. Joining the Industry weasels and sycophants on the front lines of this war were well known artists blunt smokin', Glock toting Dr.Dre and the over the hill Rock group Metallica. A shock since we are accustomed to only seeing their faces when its time to promote an album, concert, or appear in a video. Basically only showing themselves unless the appearance is in correlation with the direct benefit of their egos and bank accounts. They adopted the same party line that Napster was an affront to honesty and integrity; ironic considering that honesty and integrity are not the first values that spring to mind when mentioning Dre and Metallica. Their rights, material and hard work were being violated. The proverbial "food" was being yanked right out of their children's mouths.
Think of the children!
Yes, Dr. Dre and Metallica found the time in between sticking their phallus in some willing groupies mouth and maxing in their Jacuzzi's to fight the good fight. But lost in their bellowing was Dre's Chronic 2001 album which just happened to sell a paltry six million copies during the period where Napster was firmly entrenched in the consciousness of fans across the globe. Moving those kind of units will go a long way at Albertson's for the Young family. In addition, Metallica had a smash hit "I Disappear" right in the middle of the controversy. Not to mention the head-spinning, record-demolishing albums from N*SYNC and Eminem during the apex of Napster's popularity. Obviously the heavyweights remained unscathed, while any struggling underground artist saw Napster as nothing more than another viable avenue to have their music heard.
So if it didn't have an adverse affect on business, and a case certainly could be made that the only Napster affect was positive, then what was the deal Seinfeld? Was it just g.p?
The deal was that for once the consumer was put into the drivers seat instead of running alongside the moving vehicle. We were now the DJ's with a smorgasbord of music to gorge ourselves with to our hearts delight. Now, we could calmly review and listen to songs and make sound decisions from the friendly confines of our own home. The RIAA immediately grew threatened and terrified that something youth driven had emerged which didn't allow them to exploit and bleed every last dollar from faceless consumers whose only purpose is the wallet dig.
When you boil everything away, was Napster much more then the "dude free music" rights infringing piracy subculture? Probably not. But Napster provided an interesting lesson on where the buck stops. Money and power are the keys to unlocking the doors of illegality. We commit a crime, a jail cell is our destination. Matthew Perry plays demolition derby on Santa Monica Blvd. with an astronomical intoxication level and he gets to sit around the police station and tell stories about his slutty costars and sign autographs before he is released in front of a fleet of cameras who will slap him with the hero label for facing his punishment.
Same parallels here. Record industry robs us blind for a decade, and feet are dragged and the subject is changed. The minute something emerges where Joe Blow from Wisconsin is a beneficiary, and the legal swat team comes barreling out guns blazing.
Piracy was nice perk for cheapskates like me, but others of the same inclination will always find a way to avoid plunking down money. Above all else, Napster gave us a choice and provided us access to music past and present. Wanna find an obscure record? Eminem dis another pop icon? Just log on to Napster. Even my pops who never saw a computer he wanted to sit down in front of found joy in the service, and was able to drag up songs that had not invaded his eardrums since LBJ was still occupying the Oval Office.
Muthafuckas act like they forgot about LBJ.
But fear not W-D Patrons! Currently bastardized versions are being designed to supplement the void which will provide us the privilege in doling out X amount of dollars a month for a substandard version which will just give us access to the same tired songs that we hear 10,000 times on the radio and introduced by Carson Daly. I will leave you in your frenzied anticipating state while you go raid daddies wallet for his MasterCard.
You know what they say about all good things anyway.