The Thrill is Gone?
Wednesday, July 26, 2000 by Dave Winer.
I like to start mornings with female vocalists singing about love. Joan Baez, Blondie, The Bangles and Indigo Girls. As the morning goes on, I like to listen to black male vocalists. Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Jimmy Cliff, BB King, Gil Scott-Heron. They mostly aren't singing about love (or maybe it's love of self). It's still great stuff.
I'm listening to BB King sing The Thrill is Gone. "Now that it's over, all I can do is wish you well."
Now I know that even if the judge shuts down Napster later today, there are other services up and running that do the same thing. Even so, I'll be singing the blues with BB, because we have to keep fighting, when what I want to do is make love. But before the thrill ends (it still might not), I want to remember to thank the people who deserve it.
First, I'd like to thank Shawn Fanning, Hank Barry, Eddie Kessler and the people at Napster and Hummer-Winblad, for having the courage to challenge the music industry.
I know the music industry believes that we're a band of pirates, but I know otherwise. Read on.
Music, like most popular culture was caught in a boring malaise, without color, programmed to get us to listen to commercials, while we believed this was music. Read back issues of DaveNet for proof, I stopped listening to music. My CD collection bored me, and when I visited the record store I'd often come back with nothing. I didn't know how to parse the racks. The CDs cost so much money, and nothing excited me. Sometimes I'd come back from the store to find that I had bought a CD I already had! That did me no good at all.
Now it's very different. I've written about some of the serendipity, with a search engine and human guides, I've rediscovered old favorites, I've learned new bands. Multiple versions of songs by artists I've never heard of. I get to be my own DJ, I don't have to listen to today's top bands, which don't speak to or for me. I listen to what I want to listen to. What a thrill.
And millions of other people are doing it. We have supermarket conversations about music now. The music industry execs should get out there and listen. Music is exciting again! Any marketer worth his reputation should be able to make a lot of money now. But they're stuck, they can't get past their rage at the loss of control. These people must love to control us. Maybe that's where they get *their* thrill. It can't be about money, not really, because they can have lots of money. They can practically print money if they just listen.
Bottom-line: I simply can't find the music I want in record stores. With Napster I am no longer limited. Music is fantastic again. I am thrilled!
People who don't know this medium, who we've been hearing a lot from recently, make the mistake of thinking that there's "someone here". There's not. There are lots of voices, many millions of people. Music allows us to slice this up in new ways.
I would happily join the Curtis Mayfield club, or fans of The Bangles, Joan Baez, Ian Drury, Bob Marley or Jerry Garcia, but I have little interest in Britany Spears or other teen idols. I want my music, I'm an adult, I pay for stuff I use, and the music industry doesn't serve that.
OK, now let's talk some business.
I have been very lucky in the stock and real estate markets. I have lots of money. I'm optimistic about the future, I think I'm going to keep making money. As Alan Greenspan knows, I'm likely to spend more money. The economy is still booming. There are lots of people like me.
But here's my problem, there aren't enough things that cost money that I really care about. The money isn't that valuable to me if all I can buy are refrigerators, cars and computers. They don't inspire me or reach me. But music does. And music on the Internet *really* inspires me.
I love to spend money on music. But I hardly ever spend money when I think I'm doing something dishonest. I'm a voter, both politically and economically. I vote for candidates I support (there are very few of them, a similar problem, also solvable) and I vote for products I believe in, by buying them.
But I must pay money to the artists. This is the big catch for the music industry. They clearly don't want to give much money to the artists. They talk about the artists all the time. But I think the artists aren't actually getting the money. This is bad.
The middlemen, such as Napster, aren't that interesting either; they're only made interesting because they're the target of the lawsuit. Let's start a conversation between users and artists. Let's cut out the middlemen and get down to business.
To the artists, how much money do you want? We haven't heard much from you. Why? What do you believe about us? I think someone is lying to you, and I think I know who, it's the same people who have been lying to us, the music industry.
It's time to hear from the musicians.
What kind of thrill do *you* want?