napster and me

by David Sadegh

     As the music corporations continue to scramble to shut Napster down, I'm still downloading as many songs as possible, thinking what's the harm really? Are musicians going to starve because some people can listen to their songs for free (not counting time and hardware and disk space and internet fees)? That's a little hard to swallow for someone raised on radio and cassette tapes (and then later MTV and videotapes). Throw in libraries and used cd's, and there are plenty of ways to listen to music without any money getting back directly to the artist. Napster seems scarier than previous methods of sharing music, but as far as I can tell there's been no giant downturn in cd sales since Napster's been around.  Regardless of what they can get for free, people with money will still have money to spend, and buying cd's is simply more convenient for a significant number of people. I never did buy many new cd's in the first place (who can afford them?), but I'll still buy them occassionally, mainly as gifts for people I don't want to subject to the hassle of buying a computer, getting an internet provider, searching out files and waiting for them to download in a lesser quality format without any obvious glitches.

     The only thing Napster has done is make it readily apparent that people want music in their lives, and I can't see that as having a serious negative impact on the people creating music. It's the current middlemen who are going to suffer, because the people making money now are not the people who will be making money in the future. But even if the means of distribution shifts, artists will still be supported because without them, there is no golden egg. Perhaps internet sites and providers will take the place of record companies and make deals directly with the artists themselves. Artists will still make deals with those who can promote them the best, and money will still be made in some way or another. The smart and talented artist will find his or her loyal audience and they will support him or her if they want more. Artists who love what they do will continue to create no matter how much money they make.

     While MTV and Top 20 radio force the same mostly-garbage down our throats daily, stacked high with commercial advertising, people are demanding variety and alternatives. Unfortunately, corporations are going to do anything they can to continue making as much money as possible, regardless of what is good for artists or society. They will continue to lobby and influence governments to regulate in their favor. This activity is dangerous when "intellectual property" is concerned, because through copyright laws giant companies are collecting ownership of as many ideas as possible and threatening legal action on anyone who comes close. We need to stop this consolidation of wealth and power as soon as possible. We cannot let the world be held hostage to the past so that the establishment can continue to grow their coffers. If we truly care about artists we should limit the extent that copyright can be bought and sold without respect for the artist who created the work in the first place. And we must encourage the free sharing of art and music that is done not for the sake of a quick buck, but to spread the love of art and artists who have created something that people all over the world can enjoy.