Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Tue 22 Aug 00 21:21
>> "do you *really* think that the law should adjust >> with the demands of popular behavior, or mass belief?" > Simple answer: yes. We call this democracy, I think. Actually, that's called "mob rule", or more politely, "Athenian democracy"-- but it's not the standard we are working from now. The American tradition of liberal democracy seeks to clearly demarcate what the majority can decide, while protecting the fundamental rights of the individual. (I understand that copyright protection is not necessarily a fundamental "right" under our jurisprudence.) But why do you think sheer numbers should be the standard for making the most justifiable determination? Also, I want to challenge your assumption that there's any kind of "majority" of the population who want Napster, to begin with. Correct me if my figures are wrong, but only 40% of US citizens are on the Internet, and only 15-25% of them use Napster regularly. So you're really talking a minority of a minority. Outside that group is the majority of Americans, who have a compelling interest in the future of music, which right now is being shaped without their knowledge, or approval, or even the means to understand the debate. Why do you take demands made by a subset of primarily white, middle-upper middle class Internet users to be a universal mandate of the people which we should just accept? > you have very much misread the way people *feel* when they > use Napster. It's not about furtively doing something that > you sense is wrong but you go ahead and do anyway because > you feel you can get away with it. It really does feel like > a big global swapmeet in which you get to trade stuff and > exchange enthusiasms with people who are passionate The download pattern for Napster seems to contradict the impression you're trying to convey. Most of it is Top 40, mainstream label CDs. People who are passionate about music usually have more diverse, eclectic tastes. But as Courtney Love recently complained, she can never find the obscure cool music she really wants. Are you saying that the majority of users just happen to be really passionate for top-selling CDs? And if your main argument is how something "feels", I don't see how it's very compelling. I *do* know that most Napster users tell me the following: "CDs are too expensive, and why should I give the record company money, they're greedy bastards anyway." I don't know how they feel, but I know a rationalization when I hear one. If it "feels" like such an open swap meet, why do Napster users keep saying things like this?
whatsamatterU (dwaite) Wed 23 Aug 00 06:07
forgive me as I digress, but wagner wrote and got me thinking immediately... but only 40% of US citizens are on the Internet, and only 15-25% of them use Napster regularly. And only about 40 percent of the population votes and most elextions are determiend by less than 10%. wouldn't it be something if our government decided to influence their decisions on liberties to assure the swing vote in most elextions choose them, and if the napster population ended up being the 'soccer moms' of the next election... hmmm
Steven Solomon (ssol) Wed 23 Aug 00 06:15
A few things are almost indistputably true in this situation. CD's are overpriced (as compared to what they would cost in a truly free market, as opposed to the vertically integrated system that exists). Most CDs are of interest to listeners because of one or two songs among the dozen or more in the package. It's easy to rationalize free file-swapping, because we all know that most artists see little of the proceeds from the sale of "their" CDs, so it's not seen as ripping off the artist, as much as giving a nice "up yours" to the greedy record industry. Given the above, I tend to think that most people would pay what hey considered a reasonable price for single songs, if payment and fulfillment were made simple. When the various publishing industries offer something that people want to buy in a package that is no more and no less than is asked for, I don't think they'll have a big problem with theft. In fact, as has been pointed out, the "theft" becomes just another variant of viral marketing. One more thing. Consider cable TV vs Internet access. I'd guess that there are many thousands of "cable thieves" with hacked and illegal boxes, who are cheerfully paying for Internet access. Cable rams unwanted content down the subscriber's throat. Internet allows the consumer to construct his or her own fare... no more, no less.
The salon stopped responding (rocket) Wed 23 Aug 00 10:07
It's true that there's almost nothing "indy" available on Napster. You may be able to find a rare demo by They Might Be Giants, but that's really very mainstream. This will theoretically change, in time, but it's been a year already. Napster skews to the material MTV and radio actively foists upon us, and that's not the leveling of the playing field we were looking for from the "mp3 revolution."
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Wed 23 Aug 00 16:16
I have found much more than "rare demos" by They Might Be Giants. Lots and lots of live material, for example. The variety of what's available on Napster now is really quite staggering. People are also putting up stuff that isn't even available anymore from the labels. Take Mitch Easter's band Let's Active (an early 80s favorite on the college scene). You can't buy their EP Afoot or their first full album Cypress anymore, but nearly all the songs are available via Napster. But Adam, how would you know, since you say you don't use Napster?
The salon stopped responding (rocket) Wed 23 Aug 00 16:58
C'mon Chip. Don't you know what Angry Coffee is? Now, there is a point worth making here, one that Scott raised in his article, IIRC: if all such rare and live material were released by the labels and we could buy it, we wouldn't need Napster, right? The problem with this attitude is that the artist didn't release this stuff for a reason. The Let's Active is a good example of why p2p networks are really cool. But what about all those live tracks? You, the fan, will betray the desires of the very artist you claim to respect and love, by swapping live tracks they deemed unworthy of release. To top it all off, you aren't even going to pay them. But because it's free, and easy, and convenient, and it satisfies your cravings,therefore it must be ethically sound, right? This is the twisted logic of the bootlegger. There's a long, unremittingly boring topic dedicated to the ethics of taping in the music conference if you are interested in seeing your argument dissected further. Now, I don't want to go there, and I wish you hadn't, but suffice to say that just because you like it as a music "fan" doesn't help us out of a situation where the value of music is now $0. I had a better idea than saying "this is great. The candy store is open," which seems to be the extent of your argument. Angry Coffee pairs search queries with spotlights on independent, unsigned artists. We know that people like you without an ounce of respect for established artists will go digging for free music, so we've taken it upon ourselves to feature struggling musicians alongside your queries for Ted Nugent or whomever. I think the p2p revolution is fantastic. I also think that Napster was a horrible implementation of a great idea in that there has never been a mechanism to pay artists, the content providers. And the belated "Napster Artist" program, launched well after they were being sued, isn't connected in any meaningful way to the core product. Remember, it's a giant fuck you to the artist to download their stuff for free when they haven't authorized it (if they have, no problem). I do a lot of downloading, but I make it a point to buy the CDs too. I hope you do the same.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Wed 23 Aug 00 17:16
If musicians don't want people to record bootlegs that's their right. However it's an odd argument to say that the music was good enough to play at a concert but not good enough to record. If the music's really no good, maybe the fans should ask for their money back?
The salon stopped responding (rocket) Wed 23 Aug 00 17:28
It's not odd at all. What sounds great at a live show may not bear up under repeated listenings. Consider these comments from Pete T on Monday's Who show: "Magic Bus was a dog tonight. None of us can quite work out why we've lost it. Here and there I played well. Here and there I completely and totally lost it, bum notes. I almost went blank a couple of times. I didn't have much fun, but it was a great feeling to land the show in the last analysis without having to bust a guitar or bleed. ... I sometimes feel resentful that I have to pull a saggy song (or even a saggy show) out of its nosedive with some kind of pyrotechnic guitar solo. I tried a few of those tonight and somehow it never quite worked. ... John's bass solo in 5.15 tonight closed with a double plucked arpeggiation of some kind in a rising chromatic scheme. It was uplifting and clever, and incredibly funny all at the same time. I've included an mp3 of just that solo here for study." http://www.petetownshend.com/press_release_diary_display.cfm?id=1902 At the end, he posted 2 mp3s of a couple of really hot solos. I downloaded them, and would happily swap them. But what of the taped "Magic Bus" from this show? Sounds like Pete thought is sucked, and probably doesn't want that version out there. Some people understand what it means to respect an artist, and others don't. I hope this makes it a little more clear.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 23 Aug 00 18:14
David Grisman changed his policy a few years back and now allows taping of his shows. He told me the reason: because this band has now been together long enough to deliver consistently good shows.
Scott Rosenberg (scottros) Thu 24 Aug 00 08:00
> I do a > lot of downloading, but I make it a point to buy the CDs too. I hope you > do the same. Well, I explained above that in just about every case I cited I have already purchased *every* CD by the particular artist. In many cases I paid for the vinyl too. There is no end to the amount of money that has passed from my wallet to pay for music -- though lord only knows how much or how little of it has ended up in any "artist's" pocket. Which is kind of the point here, and why the whole "don't cheat the artist" line is a massive dodge that lets media corporations pretend that they are defending artists' rights when they are really throwing up barricades to innovation and fighting a desperate rearguard action to defend a doomed business model. Most live recordings that I have downloaded come from radio broadcasts. Somehow it seems naive to me for a musician to think "Sure, I'll send this out on the radio, but it's a one-shot, after that no one will ever listen to this again!" The musician who desires absolute control over his legacy should never consent to radio broadcasts and should be sure to frisk all concertgoers. Most musicians would, I think, be glad to find that people love their work so much they want to collect alternate versions -- as long as those fans have already paid for the "authorized" CDs. As I said I carry no brief for Napster as a company and do not especially care what happens to it. Yes, their new artist program was an afterthought. Who cares? Napster the company's fate is very much beside the point.
Scott Rosenberg (scottros) Thu 24 Aug 00 08:03
Here's a different way of thinking about what's happening today: We have a set of laws, copyright laws, intended to promote creativity and enrich the collective culture by assuring that creators retain an interest in their work and can materially benefit from it. Copyright has limits, too, intended to make sure that once they expire the public can benefit from the work. Yet weirdly, as technology and culture have accelerated in recent decades -- meaning, you'd think, that the effective life of copyright shoud dwindle -- the media corporations have exercised their muscles to *lengthen* the duration of copyright. Tons of stuff that ought to be in the public domain remains locked up. Copyright law remains in a constant dialogue with technological change. At this historical moment technology has far outstripped the law. My argument remains simple: As long as the Internet is structured the way it is, and unless you could somehow manage to radically restructure its architecture (or shut it down), then massive changes in copyright and intellectual property are inevitable. The law can marginally affect individual winners and losers in this situation (by shutting down Napster, say) but it can't freeze the overall changes. The changes are not limited to the music industry. They are already very much affecting my own field of text journalism, and over the next decade they are likely to crash rather heavily over the movie and TV industries. This kind of change does not guarantee that a particular company, business model or way of life will continue. The results can be exciting or sad. We can encourage the things we find exciting and do our best to preserve the things we think should not be lost in the flow of change. Yes, musicians and other artists ought to get paid for their work. I think if the current industry model did a better job of paying them and of assuring some greater level of service and choice to the public that there'd be a lot more public support and sympathy for the record companies as they struggle to deal with the waves of change. It is the companies that have chosen to set this up as an "us against them" conflict with their own customers. This, it seems to me, is suicidal for them. In the worst case scenario, the entire music industry collapses in a heap of red ink , and for some period of time the whole notion of the "professional musician" evaporates. Since I believe the hunger for music is pretty deeply ingrained in our species, I don't think music will vanish, it will just go amateur. Then over time people will devise new ways of supporting the exceptional talents in their midst -- ways that don't depend on Universal or Bertelsmann or Time Warner or whoever seizing a huge cut of the cash. This does not seem terrible to me (and yes, such a scenario is entirely possible in my profession as well). Nor is it inevitable. But if the music industry continues to insist that a business model is a constitutionally protected right it could force us down that road. .
Rafe Colburn (rafeco) Thu 24 Aug 00 08:40
You know, while I think that massive change in the recording industry is inevitable and will hopefully wind up being beneficial to both artists and customers, I have a real problem with Napster, the company. I've written several computer books, and have earned royalties on them as well. If someone were to make a photocopy of one of my books and share it with a friend, I wouldn't have a problem with that, because they'd be using it for learning. Some other authors probably would, but I really don't have a problem with people sharing what I've written. If someone put up a copy of my book on their web page, I'd have a problem with the people distributing it, but not with the people reading it. However, if "Bookster" created a piece of software that allowed people to share computer books relatively anonymously and easily over the Internet, I'd be first in line to sue them. While I don't have a problem with individuals who want to learn from my books, I have a big problem with a company trying to build a business around distributing my creative works without paying for them. The guys working at Napster want to get rich by leveraging the hard work of other people -- stealing from them. So, I hope the record companies do put Napster out of business, or they go out of business for some other reason before too long. I consider them to be profiteering thieves.
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Thu 24 Aug 00 11:31
It's hard to be a profiteering thief when you have little or no revenue, let alone profit.
Rafe Colburn (rafeco) Thu 24 Aug 00 11:46
But clearly they didn't attract their staff and executives without a plan to turn Napster into money. They have many millions of users, I imagine the stock market would reward them for that if they weren't saddled with bushels of legal problems.
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Thu 24 Aug 00 11:48
Adam, your holier than thou pontificating about fans who don't understand what it means to "respect" an artist is exactly the "us against them" game that Scott just labelled suicidal. I'd try a little harder not to sound so much like the execrable Jack Valenti.
Wagner James Au (wjamesau) Thu 24 Aug 00 18:23
Nonsense. Adam took considerable pains to explain how and why a musician would feel their work isn't being respected by their "fans". Try a little harder not to sound like you're saying, "Don't get above your station, kid."
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Thu 24 Aug 00 18:55
To end, type . (a period) on a line by itself The only nonsense here is Adam's lecture about what kind of fan I am or am not when he has no fucking idea, his fabrication of strawman arguments that I haven't made, and his attempt to dismiss any discussion he disagrees with by using the lamest of lame WELL debate tactics, the old "we already talked about this in another conference." All of it in a "don't get above your station, you non-artist" tone.
Scott Rosenberg (scottros) Thu 24 Aug 00 21:08
Small data point. I just poked around in Napster for songs by Richard Thompson (an artist on whose CD catalog I have probably spent hundreds of dollars by now). I noticed a bunch of live recordings under the wry name "Celtschmerz." Hadn't heard of that; had Thompson put out a live CD? Nope, not on the commercial music sites. Check Google -- aha! Thompson has set up a low-altitude operation of some kind selling live CDs to beat out the bootleggers. Wonderful. I'm sending them my check tomorrow. I'd have never heard of this music if it weren't for Napster. Now, I could download some or even most of it, but look, I'm a fan, I want the CD *and* I want Thompson to get his cut. I don't believe I'm an anomaly in this. I don't represent everyone but I don't represent a mere sliver of the public, either. Rafe, your "Bookster" analogy is pretty good but the critical issue there is the phrase "building a business." As I understand the Napster story, the software was originally written because Fanning wanted to make sharing MP3s easy. The business came later, with the uncle, etc. and later of course the VCs. As I've said, though, the moment these guys try to "monetize" Napster they're in trouble. The tougher question here is, how would you feel about the "Bookster" scenario if, say, no one was exchanging money or making money, but peopel were trading your books anyway? That's I think where this becomes painful -- and creators are forced to decide, do I want to fight to defend the old way and control my products, or can I figure out a way to make the new way work for me? I don't pretend that this is easy at all.
Rafe Colburn (rafeco) Fri 25 Aug 00 06:42
I'd have no problem with people trading my book, in large part because I believe that it would increase the sales of the book in the end for me. If Macmillan would let me, I'd post my entire book on my web site for free. That strategy has certainly worked very well for Bruce Eckel and Philip Greenspun. I know that Napster started out as a free toy, but it's clear to me that some greedy people are involved now who want Napster to make them rich. They're just as bad as the record company guys -- both groups are trying to exploit the artists to line their own pockets. I can't respect that.
The salon stopped responding (rocket) Fri 25 Aug 00 10:19
Scott, I think you've hit on the crux of the matter. Napster works because it's easy. Many of us are indeed ethically conflicted about downloading music we love when we know the artist isn't getting paid (and forget about the labels, that's not what bothers anyone for obvious reasons). There are a couple of ways around this. One we've discussed, buying the CD. I believe that Napster probably does drive CD sales to a certain extent, perhaps above what they were in a pre-Napster world although it's presumptuous to cite increased sales over 1 year as the result of Napster alone when there are thousands of variables (the most popular rapper ever has released 3 records inside 16 months, for example). This model, buying CDs, still gives the money-grubbing jerks a big cut, but at least some will trickle down to the songwriters and performers. Right now, it's the only viable model we've got. Another is what many of us are working on, a way to use a file-sharing interface to directly encourage sales, through ye old "click to buy this CD" or something more creative. There are tremendous opportunities for unsigned artists here. Major-label acts are more problematic because of the paranoia and lack of education, but they'll see they light. Many of them already have. Question: are the ethical standards of the masses sufficiently high that they'll buy something when it's *free in the same interface*? Or will a subscription model like Emusic's (a good deal messier) be the only way to create a new revenue stream?
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 25 Aug 00 11:10
Do you donate to public radio and TV? All the stations you listen to? Each year? None ever? Hard to say.
The salon stopped responding (rocket) Fri 25 Aug 00 11:38
I'm not sure I understand the question <gail> (rhetorical I assume), but the public access model does sustain independent radio stations like SF's KPOO. However, there's no money there beyong a bare minimum to sustain operations. Not exactly the revenue model WEA wants to adopt. Of course, KPOO is by far the best radio station in SF, but note that it's (relatively) quite difficult to contribute -- get the address/phone number, checkbook, stamp, mailbox. A single click from the service you use daily would be a lot easier. As I noted above, ease of use is Napster's sweet spot.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 25 Aug 00 14:31
Yes, that could make a huge difference.
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Fri 25 Aug 00 14:47
Gail's question is not rhetorical, particularly if you consider it alongside Scott's point about his Richard Thompson discovery. Let's suppose you encourage non-commercial sharing in every way possible as part of building a fan base, in hopes of attracting enough core fans like Scott who are willing to spend a buck for something more: a CD, a monthly subscription, a concert ticket, a t-shirt, or perhaps a copy of the lyric sheet. Ditch the discussion of whether audiences are sufficiently ethical, because its a red herring in the end. All you want is more fans. It's not as if unsigned bands are raking it in from CD and product sales right now anyway. But file- sharing gives them this incredibly opportunity to reach new fans who might never have found them, and grow their fans base far beyond the club crowd who might have discovered them before. As Scott says, none of this is easy. Worse case, the unsigned band makes no more money off CDs and t-shirts and lyric sheets than it makes today, which in most cases is zero. Best case, you build a Dead-like fan base that despite its ability to tape every single one of your performances without compensation _still_ buys every last one of your products. I think journalists and writers worried about Bookster will face a much harder challenge. The biggest advantage musicians have is the emotional connection they can make with their art. I don't know many people who have sex while reading a magazine story, for example.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 25 Aug 00 15:11
I am using online music to advance my career, as Chip describes it above. I worry some, though, about the likelihood that some significant portion of the audience won't be willing to pay for my stuff when it is offered.
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