Like the old saying goes, “The best things in life are free.” digital media is no exception. Digital media has lately been getting attention due to the legal accusations on a certain type of digital media, MP3s. MP3 stands for Mpeg (a common file compression format) audio layer 3 (which means it compresses any audio into 3 layers for about 1/15th the size). The lawsuits that have been springing up lately contain two arguments. In one corner, we have the argument that an artist should be able to put their music on the internet for everyone to retrieve freely. In the other corner we have the argument that musical artists are having their music “stolen” by ruthless, internet thieves hence the artist gets no “pay” for his work.
Can you think of the last time you said to your friend, “you’ve got to read this book, it’s so good!”? If your friend liked that book, he/she would probably go out and get the next book done by that author. This is the state that mp3s are in right now, except with mp3s, it’s on a more convenient level. You download mp3s, through a program like napster, listen to them and if you like them, naturally, you’d keep them, if you don’t, you simply press the delete key. The more songs you retrieve (download), the larger and more refined your library of songs gets. Then, another person sees your refined library of mp3s and adds their favorite songs to their refined list. Eventually you have every person on their computers listening and associating with their library of mp3s. This way only the best artists get spread across the internet, new artists are introduced instantly and of course your “friend” (in this case, whoever downloaded mp3s off of you), goes out and buys the next book by the esteemed author (in this case the next album released by the artist). This “natural selection” method is slowly revolutionizing the way that music is being spread and also bought.
The antagonist’s point of view is that artists are “being robbed of their work.” The thought is blunt but inaccurate and ignorant. Since most musical artist’s albums are bought through word of mouth or previous listenings, the artist can’t be “robbed” if the person likes what they hear. Very few albums are bought when the consumer hasn’t heard anything from the artist and therefore, money cannot be made without the spread of music and word of mouth. Programs like napster spread music with the ease of a double click so, if the artist is going to make any money, where do you hear about artists through word of mouth? The internet is the largest convention for information and communication so far. The internet is even better for spreading information about consumer products. Through chat programs like mIRC, A.I.M., ICQ, etc… It’s the one place where you can gather as much information and friendly opinions as possible, on any artist, song or subject. With this in mind, it would seem that most artists would drool over the thought of the mp3s so why do middle men object? A good analogy is the introduction of the television. When the television was introduced in the 1950s, movie production companies believed that they were dead because they thought, “who would go to the movie theatres if they can have little movies at home?” With this train of thought, the movie production industries stopped investing in movies. But of course, movies did not die and the movie production companies that did not embrace the change brought on by the television only missed out on a huge opportunity. Distribution is progress.
A possible solution to this revolution would be to just let the music industry change. If the music industry drops the cases on programs like napster and mp3.com, the music industry revolution will happen at its own speed. If the music industry lets the change happen at its own speed, all the changes will be of the people, by the people and for the people. Therefore they could benefit from the fact that the music industry is getting more press and attention now that change has finally surfaced. Letting the change happen on its own will allow the people to decide everything they want in music. Music will become more personalized, more for the people and therefore, more perfect. The other solution would be to try to fight the change that the people have summoned until it has repressed any change that the people want. With this solution the people’s interest in the music industry will die, the enthusiasm will never be able to be replaced and the changes that the people wanted will be replaced with the old way of music that the “middle man” wants. With the “let it be” solution, the people’s interest will increase, the quality of music will increase and the people will be able to choose what they want when they want. Whereas, with the “enforce what the middle man wants” solution, the people’s interest will die, the music companies will get what they want and bands will create lower quality music. Napster has been around for about one year and hasn’t ever been as popular as it has lately but within the last year, the music industry has gone up 500 million dollars more than expected. I think, if the music industry lets napster live and the enthusiasm keeps pouring enthusiasm into music more and more, the music industry will probably go up three million (or so) dollars next year and more the next.
Time magazine: “Reinventing Rock.” October 9, 2000
Time magazine: “Meet the Napster.” October 2, 2000
Wired magazine: “Napster upends musical trade.” October 7, 2000
http:www.foxnews.com: “The Napster age.” October 10, 2000