The Daily Ping

There were rumors of a Ping book, but those were started on the internet.

May 26th, 2000

Metallica v. Napster Arguments

I haven’t had the opportunity to speak my piece on the Napster issue. Allow me to indulge.

Issue 1: Napster violates copyrights. Not exactly, no. Napster itself, as a program and as a protocol, does not violate any copyrights – neither does the MP3 format, for that matter. Some of what people do with Napster may violate copyrights, yes. Napster does give the standard warnings about this on its site, and once you sign on to the system. Individual responsibility is stressed. It’s my opinion that it’s unrealistic for Napster to sit and watch every single user on the system, and ensure they’re not breaking laws. Devil’s advocate: it’s equally unrealistic for Napster to just sit back and say, "Hey, we don’t know what our users do, and don’t care."

Issue 2: Artists are losing money because of Napster. I’d like proof. Record sales were up 7% for the past year. If Metallica, Eminem, Dr. Dre, or the RIAA can provide hard data that says so-and-so lost sales due to their songs being available as MP3s, I’d love to see it. This issue resides wholly in the grey area created by making art for a living. The music industry, arguably, is the most commercially-oriented art industry in the nation. You make music, you get noticed by a record label, you make money. It can also be argued that the record companies make a truckload of money on CDs sold (and I imagine this can be proven, again, with a cost analysis) – so, in essence, aren’t the companies stealing money from the artists, too?

Issue 3: Artists should have total control over their music. In an ideal world, this would be true. But think about it: how many mix tapes have you heard in your life? How many mix CDs have you heard? How many live concerts have you heard on tape? All of those methods of listening to music are, technically, just as illegal as downloading illegal MP3s online. Lars Ulrich has been quoted as saying that Metallica should have total control over who listens to their music, how they listen to it, and where. Unfortunately, he’s wrong: they gave up that control to their record label!

Issue 4: Metallica has enough money; they don’t need any more. Very touchy point. I’m sure Metallica doesn’t need any more money, but greed is a powerful thing. Metallica’s motives are particularly murky, given the recurring issues of money and copyright. Perhaps they’re too intertwined to be separated.

Issue 5: CDs are too expensive, so I download MP3s to fight back. One side of me agrees with this quite a bit – CDs are expensive, particularly in BNM stores. But there are online options, and used record stores, too. A similar argument is that people just want one or two songs off of a CD and not the rest. I think everyone’s been burned by a really awful CD after hearing a great leadoff single, and it’s an argument I can relate to a bit more.

With those issues in mind, it’s my opinion that the RIAA simply got caught with their pants down and doesn’t know how to reconcile it. It’s obvious that digital music will only gain in popularity for a good segment of the population. Will it eliminate CDs? Not any time soon. Will it peacefully coexist? It can. The record companies, essentially, need to work out a digital music plan yesterday. Napster might be shut down, but what of Gnutella, which isn’t run by any one individual, company, or organization? What of Scour? And what of the next program that comes down the pike?

Ex-Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan might’ve hit the nail on the head. He has said that music will be free, eventually – but you might have to put up with advertisements placed on the sites you download those files from, as well as in the music files themselves.

But then, someone will come up with a way to circumvent those advertisements, and the argument will resurface. There’s no easy answer in this situation, particularly when money is involved. -pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Friday May 26, 2000 -- 10:52:49AM
I'm glad you wrote this, Paul, because I've been planning to write about this on the UA Journal for a while.

Issue 1: Exactly.

Issue 2: See issue 5.

Issue 3: The whole idea of the mix tape and mix CD are incredibly beneficial to artists -- free promotion, really. Hip-hop artists and labels (in most cases) have realized this and that's why DJ mix tapes sell so well and work as a great way to promote full albums.

Issue 4: It's not Metallica and similarly way-too-rich groups I'm concerned with... it's the indie artists, and they've had no problems with MP3s, Napster, etc. It's a great way to get their music heard and to start buzz.

Issue 5: Dre and Eminem particularly have nothing to complain about, as Dre has actually raised the list price of the last couple CDs on his label to $18.99 -- absolutely ABSURD. Beyond that, any CD released by a major label costs them around $1-2 to manufacture, produce, etc. in the end. The artists get extremely small percentages of their CD sales (in the 4-5% range, I believe) and make the majority of their money on tour (and CDs are promotional vehicles in that respect). CD prices should not be listing for more than $13.99 (and actually selling for more than $10) -- it's pure greed on the major label's part.

The RIAA is playing a desparate game of catch-up now, and it's kind of funny to watch, really.

Chuck D is one Napster/MP3/etc. proponent that has some views worth reading. Check out

BTW, this new format just rocks, period.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Friday May 26, 2000 -- 11:35:32AM
Ryan - agreed on all points.

One of the reasons I brought this up now was because MTV ran a "special" report on Napster last night. The interview with Lars was hysterical, because he had a very faux-emotional vibe happening. Eminem used his customary diction (ie, curse words every 3 syllables) to express his opinion.

Metallica was peeved that their song from the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack was available before it was officially released. They blamed Napster. Whose fault is it? The person who leaked it, that's who. Eminem's label also had to release "The Real Slim Shady" earlier than planned because of similar leakage. Again, it's the fault of the person who leaked it - not Napster.

The show wasn't all-encompassing, and did a passable job of explaining the situation.

Chuck D has always been aware of what's going on, and that's commendable. I'd throw in Limp Bizkit in that same category... through their interview, they proved that they have a clue as to what's going on.

FROM: pistol jack
DATE: Friday May 26, 2000 -- 4:44:32PM
the thing that really makes me not feel bad about using napster is CD prices. They are just too expensive. As a college student i can't afford to pay $20 a CD. These artists make enough money anyway, plus I've learned about a lot of new bands I would have never heard of before if it wasn't for Napster. Napster has done more good then harm to artist, maybe not to record companies, but who the f cares about them. Metallica needs to stop being bitches.

FROM: Robert
DATE: Saturday May 27, 2000 -- 1:32:02PM
I really can't say that I can what comes out of this--whether Napster wins or Metallica does. However, this should remind all of us that there are more bands out there that aren't as big as Metallica that SHOULD be the focus of a Napster-style system. Hell, the entire Relapse label could destroy new Metallica and their best selling records do in the range of 200,000 worldwide. That is why, when I get the chance, I just on and check out the up-and-coming bands. All this major label crap is just that. Why do people still insist on bothering with it?

FROM: Terry Murphy
DATE: Sunday May 28, 2000 -- 3:45:41PM

Issue 2:
There's proof that artists are losing money here. Record sales in high bandwidth areas and college towns are down up to 6%.

Issue 3: The moral equivalanet of on-line music piracy would be for me to duplicate this site and put it on my own server (with my own ads, etc., etc.) without giving you any compensation.

Issue 4: In a capitalist society, this is a non-argument. But how about indepedent artists? For an artist who sells 2,000-3,000 records (such as most new classical CD's), any amount of piracy is extrememly significant. Online piracy will hurt small artists the most. Independent labels will go completely out of business, small record stores will close down, and even small artists on big labels will be cancelled. If Napster continues at its current growth rate, the only three artists producing new music in ten years will be N Sync, Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears.

Issue 5: Please see this Most classical CD's lose money if it weren't for benefactors (and some anyways). CD's at $20 are an absolute BARGAIN and by far the cheapest form of art/entertainment (compare $50-$100 for an opera).

FROM: Matt
DATE: Monday May 29, 2000 -- 3:16:26AM
First off, people like Metallica, Dre. and Eminem are bitching about Napster because napster is providing a service to people to see how horrible most of these popstar assholes music has become. I have never used napster but I feel that it provides a service to people who would never again consider purchasing a Dre or Metallica record for the simple reason that they suck. As for me I'll stick with the hip-hop mainstay Vinyl format. Thats where the real future of music has always been

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Monday May 29, 2000 -- 10:54:01AM
Terry --

Classical CD sales are an entirely different beast compared to pop music. You don't find an individual classical CD selling to multi-plantinum status as you would with a mainstream pop artist.
In addition, I would venture to guess that it would take a lot more manpower and recording equipment to put together a CD by the London Symphony Orchestra than it would for a one-man production team like Dr. Dre (and this is not commenting on the quality of production or music, as that's mainly a matter of opinion, but as far as costs go, producing a smaller run of a classical CD is going to be signficantly higher than the cost of a mass-produced pop CD that's funded by a major corporation).

FROM: Terry Murphy
DATE: Monday May 29, 2000 -- 3:36:53PM
Ryan --

Thanks for the response.

While it is certainly fallacious to judge the entire music industry on classical music's terms, it is equally problematic to judge the entire industry on Metallica and Dr. Dre. The typical professional musician (and even the typical pop musician) does not sell millions of records. In most of the musics I am familiar with, such as jazz, bluegrass, folk, alternative country, world music, and the like, the artists sell few records - selling 50,000 copies in these genres is considered super-star status in some of them. In the pop worlds, 50,000 is an absolute flop.

I do not agree that classical records are more expensive to record. The average classical CD takes 2-3 days to record. I know that many pop albums -- specifically, some of Metallica's stuff -- have taken upwards of a year to record. I do not know how long the "average" pop album takes to record, but I'd bet it is a lot longer than 2-3 days. All the while, working with extremely expensive per hour studio time, highly paid producers and engineers, etc., etc., etc.

Going back to classical - the average classical CD costs $100,000-$500,000 to produce, and sells between 2,000-3,000 copies in its lifetime. The economics are just horrible. But where does this money come from? The money comes from pop music. When Britney Spears sells 6 bazillion records, the profits go first to pay all of the other debts of the company, from unprofitable musics such as classical (and jazz and folk and ...) When all the people go buy Britney Spears, they're funding classical music. But what happens when they don't buy Britney Spears, or they buy Britney Spears at cost?

This is precisely my fear. If on-line music succeeeds the price of music will be dramatically lower. This means that extra profits which were once thrown at classical (and other alternative genres, and developing artists) is now non-existent. The net result? That stuff will not be funded any more. Moreover, "risky" artists will not be funded. In this industry there is no sure thing. Nobody can predict ahead of time if a new artist will succeed. For every Britney Spears, there are ten other artists just like her who were signed, promoted, recorded, but just didn't make it. If record costs lower, only absolute sure-things will be marketed, because there will be no insurance if an act doesn't succeed. This is bad for everyone -- it means less variety of music, less choice.

Likewise, independent labels will suffer. Many (especially in classical) are already having financial problems, even though they charge more than the majors! If people can just go on-line and download the mass volume music, what demand is there for a specialized recording of some lute music of a fourteenth century composer? Who is going to pay $20 for it when they can get pop artists for free? Who is going to fund it when nobody is going to buy it?

But perhaps the most grave problem with on-line distribution is the format. Music is dramatically influenced by the format. Duke Ellington was considered a great composer, because he could do a lot of things within the span of 3 minutes and 20 seconds (the running time of a 78 RPM record). LP's brought longer running times, and the birth of modern jazz coincided with them. Long compositions, drawn out improvisations, and lengthy instrumentalist solos were not possible with 78's, so the LP changed jazz forever - not just recorded jazz, but jazz. The LP also helped usher in the birth of rock. And the CD has brought concepts albums to still larger heights.

But what about the MP3? Right now it takes something like 5 hours to download an album of MP3's over a 56k modem. Unacceptable. So the solution? Instead of the freedom of the CD, artists will once again be constrained. There will no longer be concept albums, intelligent compositions, but every artist will be trying to make the best three minute jewel of pop -- only modem friendly music will be allowed in this new time.

Indeed, when people talk about MP3's and Napster and everything else, they talk about songs. They say that CD's don't have enough good songs, and they want a micropayment system for songs. But music isn't about songs, it's about albums. Nobody talks about how A Day in the Life is a great song, but lots of people talk about how Sgt. Pepper is a great album. How is the next A Love Supreme supposed to be recorded in an on-line distribution world? It just doesn't make sense how it would. How about a symphony? How about an opera? Wagner's The Ring is something like 18 CD's in length, and is cost prohibitive to download over a modem. Will recorded music like this just die out, or be confined to the very rich? Either way, it's bad for everybody.

Oh, and one more thing I should mention is, which instead of stealing music, tries to develop new artists. A fine plan. But is it working? No artist developed by has attained any sort of international recognition, and most of the top downloads on the site are over the hill commercial artists who have donated their music to try to pep up their failing careers. I have gone on and tried to get some new music, and aside from being a horribly inefficient system to finding new music (it's cheaper just to buy the CD than wait for the download to finish), I haven't found any compelling new music on it (I have looked mainly at folk music, and I'm comparing it to indie folk music on CD which I listen to). The music is not well produced, has horrible sound quality, and is not well recorded. But this is obvious -- cannot to afford to give big bucks to unknown artists, but the indepedent labels can and currently do. This is practically confirmation of my fears described above -- already in progress. If is the future of music, I'm not looking forward to the future.

And, finally, there is the argument that musicians do not make money from records but from concerts and merchandising. I do not buy this for a second, and would like proof. Whenever I go to a "concert" (more like an acoustic set at a pub), the cover price is usually minimal, and the artist is almost always selling their CD at the show, asking people to buy it in order to support them. If they were getting so rich off of the shows, then why do they need to sell CD's at the shows? This may be true for superstar artists, but I definitely do not think it is true for the typical artist.

FROM: Tony
DATE: Tuesday May 30, 2000 -- 6:36:02AM
I must say....Ive stopped using napster...try you can technically download from the i-drive can use programs such as gozilla with this service...its a hell of a lot easier than getting canceled on napster. or have your bandwith slow down to 0.00001k/s and finish an mp3 in 29hrs. Once again....myself I think napster is old news...or maybe Im moving a little too fast.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Tuesday May 30, 2000 -- 10:19:53AM
Now here's an honest-to-god question someone familiar with copyrights might be able to answer.

I have two CDs that are scratched incredibly badly - Ben Folds Five's Whatever and Ever Amen (pulled it out of the CD player and rubbed it against the edge of the glass on my ent. center - oops) and R.E.M.'s Monster (from usage.) Do I have the right to download MP3s of the albums that I own, and do I have the right to make a backup copy to, you know, actually use and play?

I thought it was so, but I also thought I read that somewhere in the (lousy) DMCA it eliminates the right to make a backup copy of music.

Can anyone clarify?

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Tuesday May 30, 2000 -- 10:37:59AM
Paul -- I believe you are allowed ONE digital copy for personal use. The Phillips dual-CD recorders allow you to only make first generation digital dubs, but you can't make a copy of a copy (it uses the SCMS to keep this from happening).

Terry -- great post. It's about time I got involved with this discussion, considering you first mentioned it in December. :) I'm formulating a longer reply now, so anyone else can feel free to jump in.

OT -- kind of cool that we have three ex-GEnie people participating in this Ping. :)

... Ryan

FROM: Paul
DATE: Tuesday May 30, 2000 -- 10:38:31PM
Terry, you've brought up some incredible points.

Thinking about things related to this... I don't think I'd have a problem paying $x/month for access to a Napster-type system. There would be, obviously, a limit as to the number of songs one could download. Maybe a preview option would do... I could get a 30-second bite of Beck's "Nicotine and Gravy" before deciding that I'd like to download it. If it was priced at, say, $25/month for 20-25 songs, I could pretty much live with that. And since there are incredible stipulations on not being able to webcast more than x songs off of any one album, there might be album-related restrictions.

Or, the RIAA could offer a way to get a copy of a CD you purchase, online. Something secure, obviously.

I also wonder what Napster's revenue model is. How do they plan to make money? Advertising? Ads only do so much. Working with the (evil ;) RIAA on a system might be advantageous, given that the situation is quite heated.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Wednesday May 31, 2000 -- 12:02:12AM
Terry -- I agree that one thing that is up in the air is the idea of an "album" as a conceptual whole. Downloading individual songs may be OK for the casual listener, but I know for myself, if I'm listening to a jazz album, I will never put it on "shuffle."

The thing is this: if a problem exists, it's not the technology that's the problem, it's the way it's being used. The music industry (the RIAA and a number of major labels, in particular) dragged their feet on digital music distribution and now it seems they've missed the opportunity to contribute ideas as to how digital music should advance. Technology is an ever changing entity, but unfortunately, the music industry tends to move slow as molasses. If people want to listen to their music in a certain way, they're going to -- mix tapes are the perfect example.

As far as concerts being the main source of revenue, I was referring only to major label artists. Independent artists likely make more money from CDs than their major label counterparts. But I'd venture to say (though I have no statistics to prove it) that independent artists have less to worry about in terms of privacy -- in my experience, "the people" are much more willing to shell out $12 for an indie artist's CD to support them (knowing that they'll get a significantly larger cut since there's no major corporation picking their pockets) than they are to pay $18 at Sam Goody for a *insert multi-platinum artist here* CD.

... Ryan

FROM: Aaron
DATE: Wednesday May 31, 2000 -- 4:52:51AM

I thought I'd throw my orb into the arena.

I'm not trying to argue any specific position here, but am presenting some thoughts related to points brought up thus far.

What I like about Napster:

  1. I am able to access many songs at work that I already have on CD/tape/vinyl, but I don't have to ferry a physical object back and forth between work and home.
  2. "Radio". I've gone out and d/l'ed many songs that I don't own, only to later go out and buy the album.
  3. I use a lot for "radio". I've bought many albums based on the singles I've listened to via Underground Hip (and a few other similar sites). I like the site because it is promoting a genre of music, not particular record label's hot, new artist. I don't always agree with their reviewers, but I respect their dedication to the genre as a whole.

    So, getting back to our issues:

    Issue 1: Napster violates copyrights.

    Napster certainly significantly lowers the obstacles to making copies of digital music, almost all of which is copyrighted (I would imagine the percentage of MP3s floating around that are public domain approaches zero).

    It also lowers obstacles for a number of fair uses, for example, #1 above. There are compelling arguments that #2 also falls under "fair use" provisions.

    Issue 2: Artists are losing money because of Napster.

    I'm sure some are losing money, and others are gaining money.

    I wonder if the RIAA sues Napster and others and in the process, puts them out of business (intentionally or not), if the independent artists could successfully sue RIAA for enforcing it's monopoly on music distribution? RIAA would be depriving those artists of revenue channels outside the RIAA, and forcing them to deal with the cartel.

    Issue 3: Artists should have total control over their music

    I'll come back to this later.

    Issue 4: Metallica has enough money; they don't need any more.

    I don't think this is relevant.

    Issue 5: CDs are too expensive, so I download MP3s to fight back.

    I think this is a lame argument as well. If cost is the *real* issue then don't buy the disc at full list price. If you can wait a bit, you can find the disc at a used store, or possibly borrow a friend's copy, or split the price with 3 friends and share it, or even listen for the song on the radio.

    If you want to send a message to the record company that you find their prices too high, then I don't believe downloading tracks off the album as MP3 files is a very effective conduit for this message. The main problem is that the record company doesn't interpret this as a message that record prices are too high, rather they like to see it as you are a thief and Napster is a threat to their profits.

    If you want to be able to "test drive" an album before buying it, there are other methods to achieve that as well. Many music stores let you listen to music before you buy. Borrow a friend's copy. Request songs on the radio.

    "Entertainment" products are very odd products. Music and movies are products you buy knowing very little about the product you are about to purchase. Software is often treated the same way. In most cases, if you don't like the product, you have no recourse. It's pretty rare that a music store will allow you to return a CD, let alone for a cash refund. It usually takes an act of God to even get store credit.

    Ok, some other points:

    In the vein of "buying a CD for one hit single", Chuck D says that 95% of music is free: you pay $18.99 for the one song and the rest is free filler so you don't realize you paid $18.99 for one song.

    If people feel that they are getting screwed by paying $18.99 for one song, then don't buy the whole CD. If you only like the one song, then borrow a friend's copy, buy the single for less money, tape it off the radio for your personal use, etc. Find a music store that lets you listen before you buy and see if you are willing to pay $18.99 for the CD after listening to most of it.

    Yes, things like Napster are much easier than what I just outlined above, but I don't think that makes Napster the only option to "not getting screwed by a disc with only one good song."

    Terry Murphy writes:

    Issue 3: The moral equivalent of on-line music piracy would be for me to duplicate this site and put it on my own server (with my own ads, etc., etc.) without giving you any compensation.

    I don't know about "moral equivalent", but there is debate raging (or at least there has been recently) over similar actions. Is this close enough to your example?

    The weird bit about on-line content, like "entertainment products" I mentioned above is that it is harder to get direct competition. Sure, someone could set-up their own "daily ping"-like site, but you couldn't really have the exact same pings, at least not without getting into it with Ryan and Paul.

    It such a system in the best interest of consumers? Paul and Ryan effectively have a monopoly over their content (just as copyright gives them), but it doesn't necessarily benefit the consumer, or the public at large (which is the oft overlooked part of the copyright "mission statement"). What happens if the host Paul and Ryan chose has bandwidth problems? What happens if someone forgets to call Miss Utility and digs up a fibre trunk, cutting off their host? What happens if Paul and Ryan refuse to provide a color scheme that is readable by color-blind pingers? What if the fonts are such that it makes it near impossible to read on my browser?

    The answer is, unless Paul and Ryan aren't nice guys (thankfully they are), I, the consumer, am out of luck. I can't just go to a competitor and get the same content, but with a better experience in terms of speed, color, or font.

    Similarly for music, you almost always have only one choice of where to get music: the record label's distribution channel. Sure, there is some competition among retail outlets, and there are some alternative distribution channels, but there isn't direct competition among independent distribution channels for the same performance of that song.

    I think that the whole venture into the business of classical music doesn't really apply, since that genre is based on totally different economic models. As Terry pointed out, benefactors are necessary, as is profit-sharing from with a record label.

    If you want to compare production costs, be aware that many non-classical musics are also composers of lyrics and/or music. So, a lot of the time a rock artist is in the studio is composing the music or musical arrangement. Also, an orchestra must practice before recording. AFAIK, many classical albums are produced in concert with the performance of the same works for an audience. The orchestra will have a few days between live performances in which recordings are made. So, if we are going to compare pop/rock/other music to classical, we should be including all aspects.

    I'm slightly skeptical of cross-genre funding because most big music labels are public companies. If I was a greedy Sony shareholder and I found that they were taking massive profits from one area and putting them into massively unprofitable projects for the sake of keeping classical music alive, I would be thinking shareholder lawsuit. I'd be interested to hear how music companies avoid pissing off shareholders.

    Finally, issue 3: artist control.

    I personally have a big beef with the concept of "controlling" the use of a copyrighted work. If you listen to what Lars says in the Charlie Rose debate, and also on the Slashdot interview, to him, the big issue is controlling Metallica's musical baby (he describes creating music as "birthing"). We can even see in this Ping where the idea of artists controlling their works to be of primary importance.

    First, I read some articles on copyright ( here's a good source ) and one of the interesting points is that initial European copyright laws were based on the notion that an artist is more or less the parent of a creative work, and therefore should have exclusive control over it until the death of the artist.

    The U.S. differed in that an artist creates to add to the progress of the lively arts and culture for the good of society. To incentive artists to create, and thereby advance arts and culture, a limited monopoly is given to the distribution of the art work.

    It looks like the older, European thought is becoming dominant. The evidence is not just in artist interviews and individual opinion, but in the strategy of media companies (and software companies too). The issue is not so much *copying* a work of art (and presumably depriving the artist of compensation for it), but *controlling* how people use, consume, and interact with art works. Rhetoric about controlling use of movies and music is creeping into our daily news, and no one seems to be alarmed. No one seems to mind that the MPAA wants to control the way in which you watch movies. The RIAA wants to control which types of media I put music on, even though I've purchased the music. Or, have I only purchased limited rights to listen to a song only under specific circumstances as dictated by the record label?

    It is my opinion that if an artist wants full control over a work, then do not try to sell it. The act of exposing that work to others in and of itself involves relinquishing some control. People are going to look at a painting from the angle they like most (maybe I prefer to view Picasso standing on my head).

    Basically, I think there is a trade-off between making your art work available and compensation for it. It is good that certain works of art are absorbed into our culture and are available for anyone to use in the creation of new works of art. To have a successful work of art (successful in terms of either critical acceptance or compensation for the artist), control must be given up.

    For interested readers, there are some thought provoking section of Lawrence Lessig's book, "Code Is Law" regarding control of *use* of software. Most of it applies equally to digital music.

FROM: Terry Murphy
DATE: Thursday June 1, 2000 -- 1:06:29AM
Ryan --

I _never_ listen to any music in shuffle mode (except, ironically, while I am listening to MP3's). I have one of those 200 CD changers, and I never hit shuffle - it's just one CD after another. I am extremely serious when I say that online delivery has a serious threat to long musical works, and I don't believe that technically it will be possible to deliver long works over the internet to the masses soon.

I do try to be careful about blaming the business model, not the technology. However, I do not believe that new technology in and of itself is always good. Some people support online delivery basically for this reason. There are too many issues with online delivery that will too fundamentally change the industry, in some cases for the worse.

I still believe only the very largest artists will thrive under online delivery, mainly because the model will shift to completely low-margin/high-volume sales. I am basically operating on the premise that the major labels will fully embrace online delivery (which I think they will, probably relatively soon). I think this business model will be completely different and incompatible with what the small labels are good at.

Of course, you know considerably more about selling music than I do, which is why I am interested in your opinion. Basically, what I am wondering is, if the price of mainstream (major label) music drops to very little (or nothing) do you think your business could survive in this model? There are lots of "big" independent labels, which are not part of the big 5, but which have large catalogs, and good distribution. AFAIK, most do not get significant revenue from any source besides record sales. My fear is that the margins will be so slim on online music product that only very high volume will succeed.

FROM: Terry Murphy
DATE: Thursday June 1, 2000 -- 1:23:50AM
Aaron --

One extremely compelling argument for an artist needing to control his work is to prevent forgery. In the past, various recorded artists have gotten bad press because of bad content in songs. Without an artist being able to control his work, people can make forged songs, under that artists name, which sound just like the artist, but with some offensive lyrics. People could sabotage new acts by massively promoting a faked song which is really bad, so people think it is representative of that artist.

One of my biggest problems with Napster, and inherent in all file sharing technologies, is that all you have is a file name. You have no idea if that content is actually performed by the alleged producer, or if it is authorized by that producer. This is a very scary thing! I think this will turn a lot of artists away from Napster.

There is basically, nothing wrong with me stealing some obscure (but good) song by an unknown artist, changing it to my name, and than sharing it through napster, promoting it, as my own song. Theoretically (if Napster is really as good a promotional device as its advocates believe), I could hype myself up as an artist, and then make money on a tour or whatever. All of this is basically compatible with the copying ethic which exists under Napster. It is illegal from a copyright view of course, but exactly no more so than simply copying any file as is on Napster (which millions of people do every day).

As for cross-genre subsidizing, it is definitely occuring, and the very existence of recorded classical music demonstrates it. It doesn't make sense from a revenue/profit model, but supposedly the business justification is "prestige". All five major labels have massive classical offerings, and combined, they churn out the average of one profitable classical CD per year.

I should point out that this sort of subsidizing is not ususual in business. If you live in Florida, it costs much more to mail a letter to Alaska, than to your next door neightbor, but both cost 33 cents. Similiarly for the phone company, it costs much more to wire rural areas than urban areas but phone access in both places costs the same. Basically, I look at the classical industry like this.

FROM: Aaron
DATE: Friday June 2, 2000 -- 12:01:14AM

One extremely compelling argument for an artist needing to control his work is to prevent forgery.

Authentication of content origination from a particular source is orthogonal to control of that content. If the concern is that people will proliferate original or modified songs under the name of an artist, then we have to depend on the the current system of corporatization or some new system for digital music.

If I buy CDs from Sam Goody at my local shopping mall, then I assume that because I am buying from a "reputable" music chain, and buying from a major label, then I am getting authentic product. As you mentioned, with systems like Napster, all I can do is depend on people to use an accurate file name. Sure, I can compare bit rates and file sizes of multiple offerers to try and deduce if the download is the actual song (or maybe some truncated version), but that is error prone.

I personally put the fear of bogus MP3s at the bottom of my list. For me, I can usually spot bad MP3 versions of a song just because there are usually 20+ people offering that song, and if the file size is wildly different for one person, then I figure that that person has a corrupt or truncated version of the file. I realize that making such judgments is not practical for the digital music consuming public as a whole.

If authentication is the real issue, especially for digital music, then there are digital content authentication systems that can be leveraged to solve this problem. For example, an artist (or music label) can generate its own private key and sign the all their digital music with the key. If you are on Napster and are worried that you might be getting a bogus copy of a song, check its signature against the public key published by the artist. If a group is offended by a bogus version of a song, then the artist (or label) can easily prove their innocence by showing that the bogus version of the song wasn't signed with the correct key.

So, I think that authentication is independent of an artist controlling the use of his or her artistic output. To me, control of artistic output is where the artist decides exactly how other artists incorporate the original artist's work into derivative works. The field of sampling, especially within the hip-hop music arena, is rife with examples where an artist (or music label) denies artists to use a song in a derivative work.

In some inner sense of justice, I find it quite bogus how musical groups can totally copy the sound of another and remain relatively free of legal recourse; yet, if one sample is used, the sampling artist can be the subject of all sorts of litigation. For example, the first time I heard of Chris Bell and his record "I Am The Cosmos" the influence of The Beatles was obvious. I read the liner notes and it stated quite plainly that Chris Bell was heavily influenced by The Beatles and imitated their sound. Now contrast that to a hip-hop artist today who might use a sample of a snippet of a Beatles song that, when incorporated into the whole, loses it's context in the original song. In the former case, it seems to me that Chris Bell is far more leveraging the success of the Beatles than in the latter case. But, it seems that it is the modern hip-hop artist who faces the legal struggle over sampling (assuming the samples aren't "cleared" in advance).

I suppose part of my problem is that I see much of music, photography, film, etc. as art rather than a commodity. I resent the commoditization of both art and science. I think that there is such a concept as "the public good", and it should be considered. It seems that nowadays, it's so easy to get caught up in a very literal interpretation of capitalism where everything is a "pay per use" system and that "the public good" is equivalent to communism.

As for cross-genre subsidizing, it is definitely occurring, and the very existence of recorded classical music demonstrates it. It doesn't make sense from a revenue/profit model, but supposedly the business justification is "prestige". All five major labels have massive classical offerings, and combined, they churn out the average of one profitable classical CD per year.

I think that in retrospect, I was a bit overboard in saying that I was skeptical of cross-genre subsidizing. What I should have focused on was my surprise that there haven't been any successful (or at least well publicized) shareholder lawsuits against music companies for purposefully running extremely unprofitable business units. Sure, businesses are able to justify risky ventures in which the reward can be shown to potentially outweigh the risk, even if it turns out to be a money loser. It just seems odd that lawyers wouldn't notice that record companies are keeping a money losing subsidy afloat, especially one that is seemingly destined to only keep losing money forever.

I am not sure that the analogy to the US Postal Service is necessarily and accurate one. First off, the USPS isn't an entirely private enterprise, the US Federal Government regulates its prices to some degree (if I'm wrong about this, please educate me). Also, I've read a few analyses (which I cannot reference now, sorry) that showed a flat, fixed price was more efficient than variable rates based on distance. The same logic was applied to the New York City subway system: it was overall better to charge a flat rate than a variable rate. Similarly, with phone companies, there is a lot of Federal regulation for pricing since the government determined that universal phone access is in the public good.

FROM: Chris Collins
DATE: Wednesday December 13, 2000 -- 12:46:47PM
You suck. Napster is stilling from the
music artists' music. What if you had
a briefcase and someone grabbed it and
tried to take it away. You would most
likely tell them to give it back. Then,
what if, they said why can't they take
it. You would probably say because it is
mine and it is stealing......... now how would you fill if somebody did that to you.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Wednesday December 13, 2000 -- 12:58:42PM
uhm, compelling.

FROM: Robert
DATE: Wednesday December 13, 2000 -- 1:06:14PM
I was stilling until the VA Alcoholic Beverage Control busted up my shop. Bastards...

FROM: Camantha
DATE: Wednesday December 13, 2000 -- 1:47:25PM
Who wrote this?

FROM: Paul
DATE: Wednesday December 13, 2000 -- 2:14:26PM
Hm, I feel a stray link running about the web.

I wrote the Ping in question (my name and picture are listed underneath the article), and each person's comment lists his/her name before it.

FROM: Maria
DATE: Friday December 15, 2000 -- 12:59:33AM
How is it possible that I read through (I thought) all of the archives here, yet I never knew this ping existed until today? This is a topic dear to my heart as I have written two papers on it for journalism classes--one 90 page research paper and one feature story.

FROM: Robert
DATE: Friday December 15, 2000 -- 8:32:06AM
The Ping is an enigma that reveals a puzzle. It's like that box in Hellraiser, only without physical form.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Friday December 15, 2000 -- 9:15:52AM
Oooh, oooh, can I be Pinhead?

DATE: Friday December 15, 2000 -- 9:40:34AM
I think I can say fairly safely, Ryan, that you're already a pinhead.

FROM: Robert
DATE: Friday December 15, 2000 -- 9:45:56AM
Ryan, you can be Pinhead. Paul should be the guy who has his throat cut open, the fat dude with the sunglasses, or the Chatter. I would want to be the throat guy.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Friday December 15, 2000 -- 10:15:11AM
I'll take Throat Guy, for the block.

FROM: Baba Jake
DATE: Monday February 26, 2001 -- 11:50:08PM
Yo. Nice.

FROM: Mr Bobo
DATE: Monday February 26, 2001 -- 11:50:51PM
Peeka booboo :)

FROM: Michael Mitzman
DATE: Tuesday May 8, 2001 -- 9:06:36AM
I giving a speech on Napster for school and my mian thought on it is: Napster just facilitates the file swapping they don't put the songs up, the users do. Thats like if someone goes to kinkos, copies someone elses work, and gets caught. They would go after the person who did the copying not kinkos.

FROM: Robert
DATE: Tuesday May 8, 2001 -- 9:32:48AM
But Kinko's warns you not to make photocopies or copyrighted material. I don't know what they'll do if they catch you, but it's not like they completely turn a blind eye to what the customers are up to, like Napster.

FROM: b_deal2010
DATE: Thursday March 2, 2006 -- 7:42:53 pm
What about using lyrics or changing them to other peoples tunes and by how much, the concept of stealing a song that is only worth hearing because it was updated with new technologies ?
C'mon mate it's the songs that make this the 'times!
I can't find much on the law to start or end on it.
But the california dreaming remake, alice coopers poison, 'sharona & all the rest are the only reason to stay out after midnight these days.
If you don't believe me, listen to the next "doof" 'thumpin car at 3am over the party screams on a sunday 'mornin. Phew - wish I was there!
I mean christ INXs were stale farts and now rhythm kings- they were ment to be dead forever & then miss areobics comes out with that burn for you remake.
Now come on.
If money/morals has nothing/something to do with it , then who's baby is it when it's stem celled and out of the grave? Then who's baby is it after it was dead?

FROM: jim
DATE: Friday March 10, 2006 -- 1:54:19 pm
howsit goin dudes

FROM: kuan
DATE: Friday March 10, 2006 -- 1:56:31 pm
metallica is the worst band in the world who cares if they make money or not they should be ripped off because they suc

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