Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Miss Napster!

"Money ain't got no owners! Only Spenders!" Omar Little- The Wire

Do you remember the Original Napster? I think that was one of the most revolutionary inventions of the last half of the 20th Century. It was easy to use, you just downloaded the program and you could upload your music and share it with anyone who shared the peer to peer network.

You could share music! It got all eff'ed up because the recording industry raised questions of copyright infringement, licensing and ultimately ownership.

On one hand you had groups like Metallica (Mista Jaycee bangin his head) crying foul as their entire catalog was uploaded to the site and fans worldwide traded and downloaded it. They wanted to get paid for each download.

On the other hand you had artists like Prince who openly challenged digitally selling music. Prince actually proposed selling "The Crystal Ball Album" online years before the whole Napster debate came to the floor only to have Warner Brothers refuse to allow it!

I weighed on the side of the people not cause I don't believe in trademarks and copyrights cause I do! But cause Napster really was just people trading music.

Say for example if Stefanie from over at Curvaceous Cuban uploaded the new LEDISI album, I can now listen to it and decide if I want to buy it! I can download it and burn a copy.

"But that's taking money out of LEDISI'S Pocket Mista Jaycee!"

Possibly! Sometimes, yeah! But it also introduces her to a new person who may be interested but wary of buying the album. For the record, Albums that I really end up liking I go and buy.

What if it only has one good song on it? What if it sux?

$17.50 is alot of money to spend on a compact disc for it to only have 2 good songs on it!

The other thing was that if LEDISI put out an independent or several years before she was on a major label and some guy in Sweden had it then he posted it and I got to hear her before she blew up! You see that's a benefit for her and the record company because now they can re-release the material they have that might not have sold then as well as things that were in the vault!

Metallica for example was a fringe, speed metal band in the 1980's! They had a cult following but speed metal in the 80's was obscure! You really had to like speed metal to find them! So bands like Slayer, Metallica and Megadeath could have used the exposure from a Napster! A dedicated fan would have posted his collection and traded it!

Metallica might have seen an upswing in ticket sales at their club dates! Just think Albums like "Ride the Lightning!" and "Justice for All!" might have actually sold THEN instead of after they got really, really, really famous!

What would have happened if Prince "Black Album" never got released as a bootleg? As the legend goes Prince chucked the master recordings cause he didn't like them and someone released them.

Personally, I hated the "Black Album!" Still, do! but tons of Prince fans loved it!

Side note! I don't believe Prince has ever thrown out anything! Naw, that was a shrewd plan that worked!

Now, I am a huge Donnie Hathaway fan! It pissed me off that the record companies have been sitting on material and recordings for years! I'm sure some bean counter and a few lawyers haggled over the rights and the quality of the recordings. I'm sure the recording were quality, it's Donnie Hathaway for Goodness Sakes! But what they really mean when they say that is commercial viability!
Last year they release some previous unreleased live recordings they said themselves that they went through thousands of hours of live concerts and found Donnie doing an incredible version of Stevie Wonder's "SuperWoman" Where were you when I needed you? Donnie Hathaway recorded that gem at UCLA in 1972 while opening for Roberta Flack! Donnie's been gone since 1980!

Ok, so a record company doesn't think this recording is commercially viable and they don't release it but is that right? These are the same people who thought Marvin Gaye's career would be over when he released an album of Protest songs called "What's going on?"

I don't think any company should have right to say we are not going to release something and then let it rot in a closet or vault!

A record company should have the opportunity to get paid from an investment but not to horde material for infinity!

So back to Napster! I might have an out of print copy of "Miles Davis Sings!"

Commercially Viable? Well........ No, I don't have Miles Davis sings!

But so what! William Hung and William Shatner released musical albums! Who's to say that you shouldn't be able to hear Miles Davis singing "I've got you under my Skin Dammit! ??????

It's like Omar said "Money ain't got no owners! Only spenders! same with Art!"

What Y'all think?

BE Mindful! BE Prayerful! BE Careful!



CurvyGurl ♥ said...

I used to feel a little guilty using Napster...although it didn't stop me from downloading as much as I could before they pulled the plug originally.

I recently made a commitment to support indie artists and others (like Led and Jill) who are true artists. I feel ya on the CDs that only have a couple of good tracks, that's where iTunes stole my heart.

Keli said...

I completely agree...I think the courts got things wrong on this one. And it's not like most artist make that much off of royalties, they make money from performances.

And this chick here, I have went out and bought albums because I got the free download of a song or two and really liked them.

Bring back Napster!

Anonymous said...

I fantasize about background singing for Ledisi. With that said, I suggest you download her new album first before you buy. It's nothing like what I was expecting.

Anonymous said...

I'm leary of anything free. When I hear free and download in the same sentence I think of viruses and system crashes. I stick with faithful old itunes! I can sample the songs and choose which ones I like on the album and buy them. If I LOVE LOVE LOVE the artist like Chrisette Michele then I'll buy the entire album! If she put out another album soon I'd buy it without sampling..I guess I'm a true blue Chrisette Michele fan!

Alright that's my two cents!



uglyblackjohn said...

YouTube is nice but not the same.
I think if the record companies came up with a fair pricing system - it would be a win/win for everybody.

I hate buying "Best Of" Cds.
An artists favorites may not be my own.
A sort fof a-la-carte "Best Of" method would work out well.


I heart, heart heart Prince. The thing is though, there are so many other sites that allow you to download music now. Some come in the form of DJ mixes (ie. or or some you can simple search & download (it beemp3) in anycase, people always find a way around it. Once one site is bloceked another is up.

And the Artists get most of their money from Concerts, commercials, movies & other deals. Not record sales, although I will say it hurts newer artists more that well known artists

Shady_Grady said...

I think that the owner/producer of the music (or other information) has the right to set the price at which he or she will sell it in the marketplace. If the consumer doesn't like the price then don't buy it. But taking it without recompense is stealing. It really is that simple.

The author Steve Barnes has a number of posts on this subject, which I will link to below. (For space and copyright use, only small portion of linked post is excerpted)

I don’t pretend to know what is “true.” All I’m doing here is stating my position. And my position is that anyone who thinks they have more right to decide what shall and shall not be done with MY work is no one I wish to call friend, or would want as a reader, or neighbor. Deal with that as you will. Because you found a key to my house doesn’t mean you can come in and take what you want.

But if you do—at least, for God’s sake, be an honest thief and say “I do this because I can, and I want to.” All of this crap about how people are doing artists a favor to take their work, even if the artists protest, is the very worst kind of childish self-deception.

I MAKE MY LIVING SELLING INFORMATION. It is delivered in magazines, books, lectures, via radio. The exact same arguments used to "share" music could be, and have been, used to take money from my pocket. You say you have the right to copy and distribute it to thousands without my permission, and you are saying you have no respect for my rights, my bank account or my life. I then would be a fool to have any respect for yours. No society operates this way--it is a child's dream of "I want it, it's mine."

Mista Jaycee said...

Welcome home for the first time Shady Grady! Nicely posted arguement. However, I still disagree even with the great Steven Barnes. You see we are not talking about just setting the price. We are asking at what "limit" is ownership? You see I have several live performances of New York Metropolitan Soprano Angela Brown long before she got famous and what if I wanted to post these rare recordings for anyone to hear for free? A record corporation does not have copyright or ownership and no money is changing hands. I am just playing the recording. That's all the trading was. I didn't mention this in the article but remember the creator of Napster offered the service to the music industry first who turned it down. Then, when it took off, they wanted it but they wanted to track what people were downloading to create marketing trends. This was refused. That was the real object. To see what you were buying. One of those was choice. The right not to get duped into buying a suck album. This is not subjective. The industry had gotten lazy and was releasing $17 albums that had two singles and 8 skits. No! Now, Apple sold the music for 99 cents when they said no one will pay for it. We paid, now the record companies want to set the price. NOOOO!

As an artist, I understand wanting to make the money but reality is this. Most artists aren't being paid what they should be. Not what they want, what they should be. 15 percent royalties, loss of ownership of the masters in perpetutity! Hell No! The record industry could have made better deals to the artist. Prince has several lawsuits in motion on the release and accounting of purple rain. My friend Mista Snappz from GAT/ESO album is always being sold as an import yet, the industry says the album didn't make any money when it was released in 97. Yet, it still selling and available. Funnie if you release only 100,000 copies and you say you sold that then there are no NEW Copies to be had. No it's bigger than what we are taking about here.

Shady_Grady said...

Thank you Mista Jaycee. It is nice to be here. I don't have a dog in this fight so to speak. I don't download music nor am I am a published writer...yet (hopefully).

I definitely agree that the CD format has dovetailed with the decline of popular music. But I think there are too many bands/groups anyway.

I am VERY grateful to anyone who is creative and produces something I think is worth enjoying. I'm fascinated by creative people in all walks of life.

But the thing is that person has the right to decide when and under what circumstances they want to enter the market. If someone WANTS to give away their creations for free or at "pay what you can" prices like recent attempts by NIN, Radiohead or Saul Williams, I think that's great.

But there are other artists who don't wish to do that. I think their rights and choices need to be respected.

Of course there will always be tension between the creator or owner of a piece of art and the entity which publishes it or distributes it. Record companies don't do any artist any favors.
I like this quote (supposedly by Hunter Thompson)

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.

But I don't think that tension can be resolved by a third party (i.e the downloader) coming in and effectively saying "I'll take this art at a price of zero, thank you very much".

Prince has been extremely protective of his music in all situations. Last I heard, he was suing youtube, ebay and Pirate Bay for copyright infringement and forcing them to take down his music. I think that's a bit much but it's not MY music.

Neither the artist nor the publisher/distributor is going to make money if the "free" model of music becomes widely accepted. Some artists are ok with that and that's cool. Others most definitely are not and I respect their opinions on this. To take someone's creation without paying them their asking price just isn't right.

I am sure that someone could let us know who owns the rights to the Angela Brown recordings. But I'm also sure that people who were illegally downloading a Metallica or Slayer recording already knew who owned the right to that recording and it wasn't them. They just didn't want to pay the price.
Even if a group only made $1.50 out of every legally sold $14.99 CD, it's their $1.50. I really doubt that anonymous downloaders are sending in any money to the group.

Anonymous said...

there's no making excuses for it. it is what it is. however, i'm just not always gonna buy it if i don't have to. i think the same thing about all the bootlegg movies i watch. i mean i value music and movies differently if i was in the states i would be at the theater but anyways. i mean that right there though set it all in motion. people can still download. they can't even control it all like they want to now. yet, all these websites with region limitations. now everyone in the industry wants an extra cut. now stuff won't even get released b/c somebodies pockets aren't being waxed. spenders want to be owners

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