Where do I send the money?
Monday, June 19, 2000 by Dave Winer.
A couple of months ago I downloaded Napster, searched for a few of my favorites and found nothing.
Yesterday I downloaded it again, and had a completely different experience. I found *everything* I wanted. I quickly built a music library, stuff that's either hard or impossible to find via retail music channels.
I woke up giddy this morning, realizing that I would be working with Buddy Miles, Cyndi Lauper, Alvin Lee, Todd Rundgren, Jethro Tull, The Kinks and Annie Lenox, and probably anyone else I could think of. (Assuming the Napster servers stay up, they're having trouble with this.)
It's hard to see how the music industry can put it back together. Their distribution system is busted. Even if they sue Napster out of existence, how are they going to get the MP3s off the users' hard disks? By appealing to their honesty? Hmmm.
After reading Courtney Love and Steve Albini, I see they are screwed on the other side too. Who can back the music industry after understanding how they work with artists? Where does the money I pay for CDs go? Surprisingly, not to the artists.
A couple of years ago perhaps the music industry could have done something. They could have seen this coming, seen the conundrum they were walking into, and adjusted their economics accordingly. Now they argue right and wrong, which is tricky. They have no obligation to do the right thing themselves, but somehow everyone else, the artists and their fans, do. Enough of that.
There's opportunity here, but not the opportunity to control the connection between artist and fan. As always, that's what the Internet eliminates, the need for middlemen.
What artist wouldn't accept a reasonable sponsorship from an Internet-based venue, one which allowed them to easily collect gratuities from their users, as Courtney Love describes?
Why shouldn't such a company start right now?
And remember that these are artists, they are vulnerable on a personal level. They have been screwed bigtime. We can't just send A&R people to meet them, we have to send their counterparts from the software world. Let's talk art and money. Leave out the middlemen.
That's the key question. After learning the economics of the music industry, I no longer want to send money to the companies, I want to send it directly to the artists. Certainly no one can deny me the right to do that.
I want to make up for the brutality of the system they had to be part of. I want to make it right. I gave my money to the only people I could find to give money to. They told me they were giving the money to you, or at least they lead me to believe that. I am sorry I believed their lies.
PS: I also feel love for the Napster people. What a nice piece of software. If anyone from Napster is tuned in, an offer of help, moral, and technical. And thanks for having the courage to blow the door open.
PPS: I wonder if AOL bought a bag of air when they merged with Time-Warner. How different it would be if AOL had acquired Napster.
PPPS: I had a debate with Roger Black on the keynote stage at Seybold in February. He argued for production values. I said I like production value, who doesn't, but I don't mind a rough cut, if I get new ideas and get a chance to dance to a different tune.
PPPPS: As a Web developer using Napster, I immediately want a search engine and category system. I'd like to see the top 100 songs of 1971, with links to places I can listen to them. I want to publish a weblog, with pointers to stories people wrote about each song that moved me. Of course I want to hear the music while I'm reading. I want to meet and connect with other people who love the same music I do. I want them to show me new music that I can click on to listen to. I want music to be as easy as the Web. I don't mind paying for it, I pay for everything else I use.