Right now, 50 million computer geeks and music fans are furiously pounding the download button on their Napster windows. The corporate music lawyers won their lawsuit, the end of free music is nigh, and we’re taking every free song that our hard drives will hold.
A burned DJ Krush CD spins illegally in my boombox, while half a dozen download-status bars fill up my desktop. Do I feel bad about my last minute music grab? No. And I speak for 50 million when I say the music industry can suck my balls.
My support for Napster would be less militant if I thought musicians were actually being paid fairly for their music, or if recorded music was worth that much to begin with. But I’ve watched the VH1 “Behind the Music” specials, and I know how it goes down. The Music Industry is a collection of jackals and swine and 10-percenters who live off the musicians they exploit.
OK, the musician gets a little money from the sale of a CD, but only after those profits have passed through the maws of a whole cadre of professional parasites who skim off the artist’s basic talent. The Backstreet Boys are a joke, but what they get paid versus what they generate in sales is no laughing matter. Entire careers are built on the backs of musicians, and the consumer pays for each and every sycophant in the business.
CDs can cost $25 at a record store. Twenty-five dollars! That price has nothing to do with the material. Blank CDs and jewel cases are cheap. Rather, the insert for the $25 CD features credits for people who have no musical talent at all – managers, promoters, second assistant production aids, music video directors. Napster showed the world how obsolete those people are, and then they got sued.
Napster could be shut down at any time, and I’d be more concerned if there weren’t at least 50 other Shawn Fannings out in cyberspace just waiting with new software. It won’t be Napster, but it will be damned similar. Music file-sharing programs will pop up and disappear faster than the gophers from the mallet game at Chuck E. Cheese’s.
Free music came with the advent of the cassette tape, and the World Wide Web has just made it easier. Besides, the Industry never deserved the money they swindled in the first place.
There isn’t enough live music in music today. Bands tour to support a record, and the record sales support the swine. It should be the other way around.
Thousands of crappy artists can sit back in their $5,000-an-hour studios making crappy albums for an audience too stupid to appreciate good music. They go and play three live shows, all of which suck, and then retreat back to their ivory studios for another session with the pitch shifter. I wager that most bands can’t even perform that well live.
Screw that. Play live or don’t play at all. If you want to be a million-dollar rock star, earn it from the sold-out shows you play, not the hyped crap you can get on TRL. I don’t like Phish or The Grateful Dead, but their touring schedules are a testament to their work ethics. They love playing in front of people, not selling them CDs. Too many bad musicians and swine herders feed themselves by the sale of crappy CDs.
After the way in which corporate music has handled Napster, I vow to never buy a compact disc again. It’s one thing for them to be pissed off because some uppity computer nerd destroyed their revenue base with a single program, but it’s another thing to lie about whom it’s really hurting. Musicians will always starve no matter how much they’re paid – cocaine and cigarettes dramatically curtail appetite. But thanks to Napster, plenty of 10-percenters might also starve.
From that perspective, downloading makes me feel like I’m doing my part to ruin the Man. Every “illegal” copy I make with my computer and my electricity and my blank CD and my Internet account, is a little less money going to industry lawyers who would have me pay royalty rights for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” if they could.
To my Napster brethren, 50 million strong, I say, “Fight on. The pig-dog lawyers may have won the court case, but free sharing of music cannot be stopped. Download music wherever you can find it, attend live shows, damn the Man and never give the legal thieves a penny.”
David Downs is the Daily Nexus features editor. He deals with his own immense moral, spiritual and economic poverty every Wednesday in The Low Down.