Deconstructing Napster (Part One)

"There is this quality, in things, of the right way seeming wrong at first. To test our faith." -- John Updike

Napster needs to be shut down. Immediately.

And FreeNet and all the rest of the clones. These websites are stealing money and property faster than Robin Hood on speed. What's perhaps even more shocking is that 80% of those recently polled on America Online believe these thieves should remain in operation. I guess those 80% never created anything worth stealing, and therefore cheer piracy. Or maybe they're anarchists.

In case you're still somehow computer-challenged in this post-modern era, Napster is a website that allows members to to download entire songs in MP3 (a digital recording and playback device) format for free, without permission of the artist or record label. Napster is bad for everyone in the long run except Napster and those who enjoy stealing music.

Now, if artists wish to put their music on the internet or anywhere else for people to have for free, that is unquestionably their right as the owner of the intellectual property. But it must be by their CHOICE. This article is NOT about music as art, or the age-old tradition of the struggling musician/artist. It has to do with music (and art) as a consumable product, something you buy.

Artists like Courtney Love and Dr. Dre are speaking out in favor of Napster basically because record companies are against it, and she (like many artists) has an axe to grind with huge record companies. Her argument is that record companies have been screwing artists for years, so anything that screws record companies is hunky dorey. The idea that this justifies thievery is as ludicrous as Courtney Love's ability to command big money for her acting and musical "talents." What artists like Courtney Love fail to recognize or address in their self-centered narrow perspective is that record companies are the ones that take major financial risks on bands. Many, many more bands fail financially than succeed, and record companies have to absorb those losses. So when one band does hit it big they unfortunately have to make up for all the bands who sell less than 10 albums.

Which is not to say record companies are not evil. They are. But they exist to make money, and nothing less. [From the record companies are indeed evil file: Huge record companies are evil in the same way that any giant corporation is evil. They are huge entities that make a lot of money, and don't generally care about much else, like environmental concerns, or workers' rights, or any other tree-hugger ideals you can come up with. And in this age of corporate merger-mania, the record labels are almost invariably under some mind-blowingly huge corporate structure, like Disney or Time-Warner. Point: Time-Warner can produce a movie through Warner Bros. (an adaptation, say, from a Time-Life or Little Brown book: they own both), have a band or bands on one or more of its labels (Elektra, Atlantic) write songs for the peppy soundtrack, then advertise the movie, the soundtrack, the current single, and/or the book on the TV networks (WB11 in NY), cable networks (Time-Warner cable), internet service providers (AOL), radio stations, and newspapers it owns. Not to mention control of review outlets (newspapers, magazines) and pre-release media hype (television interviews, articles, Hollywood behind-the-scenes shows.) What all this really means is that we're moving closer and closer to a Big Brother society where all of popular culture is orchestrated by 5 bald old white guys at the top floor of Time-Warner's corporate office building. One of the shining strengths of the internet has been its unfettered freedom from these giants, in that the distribution playing field is leveled. Yes, these huge companies can advertise their sites ad nauseum, but anyone anywhere can access anyone else's website....I can't go see an indie movie whenever I want, or buy an indie record at any record store I want. That's the difference. More on this in Part 2.]

What Courtney Love and her ilk fail to address is the solution to the whole mess, which we will reveal in the next issue of ScowlZine, utilizing such words as, "Nazi," "Brittany Spears," and "Big Brother." Don't miss it!