The music revolution will not be digitized

By Janelle Brown


Salon Staff
June 2, 2001 11:00PM (UTC)

Read the story.

I can hardly even believe that a senior writer would author such a long in-depth article and be so far out of touch with reality. The article focuses on the major labels and the file-sharing start-ups. The focus should be on my hard drive and the many millions of people like me. No one can stop peer-to-peer file sharing. I'll continue to put my 700 MP3 files on my Web site for anyone who wants to download them, to have and to hold and enjoy forever and ever. And millions of others just like me will continue to do the same. No one can tell me what I can and cannot do with music I have purchased or music that someone has given me.

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Since "filtering" began at Napster, I've still downloaded every single song I've desired without fail even once. It's called Napigator, it uses privately owned servers (many of them based in foreign countries) and there's nothing the RIAA can do about it. There are other services out there that work just as well as Napster. And in the end, there's always ftp. I've been screwed by the RIAA for many years. Now I'm leveling the playing field and getting back my money, one great song at a time. We're nearly back to "even." Soon, I'll be finished. I'll have every single song I've ever wanted. My cost? Not a dime. Deal with it.

-- Name withdrawn

I really enjoyed Janelle Brown's article on the music industry, but I don't think that the situation is as bleak as it seems. After all, Napster and like-minded companies didn't really change the avenues by which musicians find their audience, they only changed the format. As Brown points out, from the musician's point of view, Napster and other Web-based music companies aren't really all that different from traditional labels in that, to them, music is a product to be sold for as wide a profit margin as possible. Brown argues that the revolution is over. I'd argue that it hasn't really started yet.

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-- Brian Slattery

Those who get hurt by "free" MP3 distribution are the same folks who get hurt by the big music companies. These are the real alternative musicians: classical, jazz, blues, experimental rock, etc., for whom every sale is crucial. We can't afford to give our music away and continue to compose and perform high-quality music. Nor do we usually generate the kinds of sales that justify interest in our work by the big companies. Hopefully, someone will come up with a way to distribute our music in a fashion that is truly fair both to musicians and their audiences. But neither the big corporation model nor MP3 works for us.

One final point: I have always been puzzled that the sound quality of MP3 is so rarely mentioned. If ever a music format sounded terrible, it is this. It's amazing that a community that demands an absurdly high 96khz sampling rate for digital recording would tolerate MP3's for a second.

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-- Richard Einhorn

The real issue with digital music is not the life of services like Napster. As consumers of art, music lovers should have no problem paying for music. All the record companies' posturing indicates that, in their eyes, buying a CD gives a consumer only very limited rights to listen to that music, and those rights are far, far less than what consumers have enjoyed for many years.

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-- Mike Bruner

I found Janelle Brown's article about the changing nature of downloading music from the Internet to be merely an example of selfish, wanton entitlement masquerading as a noble defense of the helpless consumer, i.e., "I want it; therefore I am entitled to it." It was more inflammatory than helpful because it amounted to one big grievance without offering even a hint of a solution. Buried well within the text was only a sentence or two that referred to the illegality of taking (downloading) another person's property without permission or payment. Yet that concept was at the heart of the rulings against Napster and others. The primary tone of the article insinuated that court actions taken against the offending companies were merely "legal maneuvers."

I do not dispute her assertion that the start-ups created customer-friendly innovations. However, I do take issue with her implication that innovation -- and, by extension creativity, even in the technical field -- must suffer or die, and that the consumer must wallow in the mire of loss merely because a company is required to operate within the boundaries of the law.

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I have worked in the music industry for more than twenty-five years and have witnessed many changes in it, some of which have had dramatic effects on my livelihood. And I believe that the collective change comprised of the many technological developments surrounding digitization may prove to be the most far-reaching in my lifetime. One of these changes is that the concept of intellectual property has been thrust into the public spotlight, introducing it for the first time to many people. But no matter how exciting or disturbing these changes may be, I also believe that observing the rule and the spirit of law maintains our integrity as a civilized people, and that ultimately this integrity will propel us further than will a passing, misplaced sense of entitlement. If we must learn again, the hard way, that stealing is illegal -- stealing even intellectual property -- then learn it we must, and we will all be better for it.

-- Robert Nowak

Depends on what Janelle Brown considers a revolution. In the end, all the little Napster companies weren't just file-sharing software, but fledgling opportunists who just wanted to be the next MTV. The question she never seems to address is, are all P2P exchanges doomed to be sued out of existence? Is that even possible? Log onto Bearshare or any of the others proliferating P2P exchanges. If the dam can't be stopped with the RIAA legal thumb, what's the point of this whole article? Christ, I know it's Salon, but shouldn't there be some underlying truth to the writer's whole assertion? If I can still get my MP3s, who gives a rat's ass about Napster's demise?

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-- Greg Plageman


Salon Staff

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