Where's the messiah?
Tuesday, August 1, 2000 by Dave Winer.
I'm writing about music again. So what else is new?
This piece is brought to you by Madonna. (An old tradition for those who are new to DaveNet.)
Strike a pose.
Strike a pose.
Look around, everywhere you turn, it's everywhere that you go, you try everything you can to escape the pain of life that you know, strive to be something better than you are today, get away, it's on the dance floor, let your body move to the music, come on vogue, let your body go with the flow.
Ooooh. Let me catch my breath. Whew.
Music. Get up on the dance floor. She's still singin!
Music. That's what's going on these days, music on the Internet is the catalyst for everything else on the Internet. Middlemen grabbing headlines, taking shots at other middlemen, Napster is down, Napster is back. Napster, Napster, Napster. Those who know better scold the music industry, rightly so, for focusing all the attention on Napster, now their flow is booming at unprecedented levels. But what can Napster do with the flow? They can't settle with the music industry. Nowhere to go. They can't let their body go with the flow.
Wait. In the meantime the users download free music, the artists still aren't being paid, and everyone wants to know how it's going to shake out.
The Wall Street Journal took a totally cheap shot at Napster, in a much-cited article, they say Napster is open with others' intellectual property, but jealously guards its own. The charges are worth about a paragraph of rebuttal. A short one.
I own no Napster stock, have no interest in the company. I use their product but so do 20 million other people. I have a lot of experience with open and closed protocols in the software industry. Napster's is open. It's one of the first things I checked out.
There are at least two sides to the technology industry in the music-on-the-Internet revolution.
On one side, pity the Internet music companies, started before the Napster craze; the ones who have been trying to work with the music industry. They've been playing by the rules, while Napster blew through them. It's impossible to know what kinds of deals they've made with the music industry, but so far none of them have jumped over to the other side, to compete with Napster.
On the other side, there are hardware and system software vendors who merely make devices for recording and playing MP3s. They have nothing to fear from the music industry, because both law and money are on their side. The information technology industry is an order of magnitude larger than the music industry. I have a feeling if it were the other way we wouldn't have writable CD-ROMs.
At the same time, the service agreements of home connectivity providers are as busted as the distribution system of the music companies. Users are prohibited from running servers in their homes. Well, Napster is a server. This opens the door for other kinds of servers. This is good! As a software developer, I know that there's a meditative magic to running a server. There will be lots of cool products in this space, so ISPs, revise those agreements and start promoting. "We're the best for running Napster." Go go go.
There's a new boom coming for sure, as all those happy Napster users will buy bigger hard disks, bigger pipes, new portable music-playing devices, low-power FM transmitters so the music the computer plays can be heard anywhere in the home or office.
As this happens, as we throw out the old bosses, the Hollywood execs who are still having the wrong argument with the wrong people, what's the likelihood that the new bosses, whoever they are, will be any more freedom-loving than the old ones? In other words, what's the chance that there will be an explosion of creativity and expression to go along with the huge wealth that will be created from the economic shift?
This is the question that Steve Wozniak keeps asking. It's the right question. Don't trust a middleman who says "You can trust me." Never. The moment will come when we will be asked to do that. Trust me. ;->
Middlemen, middlemen, everywhere you look. Lots of users. Many of them like getting music for free. The artists still aren't getting paid. They want the problem to go away. That's not realistic.
So, will the new be better than the old?
I don't know the answer to this question.
Find me an inspiring musician who loves using and creating for the Internet. That's someone I want to work with. That could be our messiah, the Beatles of the new medium.
I'm not kidding about messiah-hood. John Lennon said the Beatles were more popular than Christ. When he defended himself I understood what he meant. He didn't mean disrespect to Christ. It was a simple (and true) observation. People cared more what Lennon thought.
That's the kind of musician I want.
Until he or she or they come it's going to be middlemen and moneymakers, frustrating each other, fighting over money. Eventually, probably soon, the music industry will feel it in the pocketbook, and then it will die.
Will more music be made? I think so. Will the artists get paid? Maybe not.
There has to be artistic possibility in this new medium. A new kind of inspiration, musical, emotive, strong, not afraid of the Internet. When that comes online, however it comes, then we'll know what this medium really means.