The Napster Thing
I think it was Mark Twain who said, "Everyone
complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."
Welcome to Napsterville, folks.
I hear arguments about how "just
because the technology is available doesn't mean you should use it",
which I suppose is fair. I also heard a lot of whining when music people
first freaked out at "home recording" of cassette tapes. Of
course, if MTV and VH1 are any indication, that argument didn't exactly
But I come from a completely different
point of view on Napster and the like: it simply doesn't matter. Here's
Everyone seems to be coming at this issue
from the wrong perspective. Let me ask you: anyone reading this feel outraged
that the buggy whip industry -- once a prominent force in the horse drawn
carriage days -- is almost as extinct as the proverbial dinosaur? Anyone
care? What about those nifty dial phones? How about those thousands of
stick-your-finger-in-the-hole-and-twist dial-manufacturers that were ruthlessly
thrust aside by push button technology?
Oh, the humanity!
Hey, what's really happening is the paradigm
shift that all the egghead futurists were warning us about in the 1960's.
It's progress, which can often come through the door in fairly ruthless
manner. What -- you thought all this great "point and click"
stuff was being laid at your feet WITHOUT a price? Get real. The old gray
mare got replaced by the cool gray Oldsmobile. Same thing's coming down
the road for music, TV and movies.
Not that I side with either party. I don't,
because I don't have to. The market forces are doing the work for me.
In this case, the music industry isn't going to eat it; the EXISTING music
infrastructure is going to eat it. But that doesn't mean the music industry
ends. Phillip Morris arguably killed off millions of people with their
cigarettes while cigarettes were in fashion. Now, with tobacco teetering
on the verge of becoming a controlled substance, are they packing up and
going home? Hardly. They've diversified into different businesses. So
until Kraft Velveeta is declared a public nuisance (itself a questionable
call), Phillip Morris will survive and likely flourish.
You want the real story on Napster? It
ain't about anyone ripping off anyone else. It's about paying the price
of moving forward. It's about a business that has -- despite what you
may read in their annual reports -- never been run like a business and
is now feeling it where it counts.
And it's far from over. Just wait until
we're all linked via high-speed bandwidth. You'll hear the same whining
from TV and movie studios that you're hearing from the music industry
now, only then it'll be about TV. The comparisons will be about VHS and
The one thing that WON'T change is the
foot-dragging of the entertainment industries as they whistle past the