Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to mourn the passing of our dear friend Napster, who was taken from us by the ruthless bastards who refuse to understand the true value of art. Napster wasn’t a saint; it had its problems and was unfair to some; however, it was key in voicing the cry of consumers sick and tired of being gouged for music. Napster’s heart was in the right place, but like so many good things in this world, its time was short. Now let us reflect on Napster, both the good and the bad, so that we might understand its importance and what it could mean for the future of the music industry.
Napster was an excellent tool; however it had some fundamental flaws, the most obvious being that artists were not paid for their work. I want to make a quick clarification here about what I mean by "artist." I have very little patience for people who call themselves artists yet go into the entertainment industry for the money. Artists create in whatever forum (music, art, writing, film, etc.) for the sake of making something beautiful. If your number one reason for becoming a musician is to make money, then I’m sorry, you’re not an artist, you’re a trained monkey with a microphone. If true artists aren’t supported, then they can’t produce and everyone loses. Musicians have every right to get paid for their work, and it is unfair to keep it from them; this especially goes for new musicians trying to break into the business. Should established musicians be paid the exorbitant amounts they currently receive? Hell no. When I heard Lars Ulrich bitch and moan about being ripped off, I wanted to vomit. I’m not about to lose sleep over the fact that Lars can’t afford a few more diamonds for his toilet seat. I think the fledgling artists were the only ones getting a raw deal from Napster, but even then a greater audience was exposed to their music. Napster’s second flaw is a minor one, and that is it was unregulated. Sharing music with your friends is one thing. Giving several thousand strangers a copy of a song is something entirely different. However, as far as I can tell, these were the only big problems with Napster in terms of legitimacy.
Napster showed that more music needs to be more accessible. Chain music stores only carry the albums that sell, and the albums that sell are whatever the music stores choose to put on the shelves. Napster was the only place I could find Ass Pony’s "Little Bastard," or No Doubt’s cover of REM’s "It’s the End of The World as We Know It." It was the place you could get what you wanted when you wanted it and at a price that couldn’t be beat. Pop music is at an all time high right now and all those great but lesser-known bands are getting kicked off the shelves to make room for Britney to do it again and Ricky to shake his "bon-bon." Granted, the old argument about supply and demand holds true, but how can we demand anything if we don’t know it exists? Napster was the way to find good music that you couldn’t find anywhere else.
Napster was cheap to use as well – free actually. CDs cost anywhere from $15 to $18. Everyone has the right to enjoy music, and the only fair way to make that possible is to make music affordable. Napster was a message to all those suits, execs and whining microphone-holding monkeys that they’re getting way out of line and a massive change is needed.
Finally, Napster was revolutionary in its use of the Internet for distributing what the masses wanted. It joined with the ranks of e-publishing, showing that the Internet is the new medium for supplying entertainment. I won’t be surprised if companies begin springing up selling music over the Internet, and as long as it’s low cost with a large selection, I’ll be happy. It seems like the most logical thing to do, but then again, no one ever insulted the entertainment industry by labeling it logical.
Things like Napster shouldn’t become a permanent fixture in our society. In the long run, they are unfair; however, right now they are the best way to get out the message that things need to be fixed. People are tired of having to search and pay extra for hard-to-find songs as well as shelling out big bucks for mainstream music. We knew Napster wouldn’t be around forever, but it shouldn’t go until the industry makes things fair for everyone. Until that day comes, there will always be sites like Napster that will fight the good fight for the people and keep the true spirit of music alive. Rest in peace, Napster, we’ll miss you and take pride in the fact that you died for a good cause. The service has ended; go in peace. Amen.
Steven Ruszczycky is a sophomore bio-psychology and English major.