Nappy Time

By shane

Uh oh. Guess what I just found out. I share an opinion with Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit. Needless to say, this worries me a bit... so it's time to put pen to paper (which still sounds infinitely better than "put fingers to keys") and attempt to justify whatever in my brain is causing me to join forces with my least favorite figure in contemporary music.

Yep, that's right... it's time for me to take on... THE NAPSTER ISSUE.

In case you've been living in a cave for the past year, it goes a little something like this: Napster (on the Web at is a software utility that allows users to log onto communal servers where they can trade and swap mp3 files with anyone else on Earth who wants 'em. It's a gigantic pool of music (and other stuff, too, if you have the Wrapster add-on, but you didn't hear that from me) that's free for the taking, one song at a time.

Of course, our good ol' buddies at the Recording Industry Association of America aren't too thrilled - and thus, the lawsuits begin. The RIAA sued Napster for a whole boatload of offenses and compensation... as I type, it's still being sorted out in court.

But that's not nearly as headline-grabbing as the NEXT lawsuit... someone else decided they were pissed at Nappity-Nap. Yes, a giant of the recording industry has taken it upon himself to file his own lawsuit to try and stop the evil bootleg menace of Napster. A man whose very name emits fear... the most respected musician of his time... an artist whose invaluable contributions to the world of music have taken society to a new, previously unseen level. Yes, it goes without saying that I'm speaking about... Lars Ulrich of Metallica. Yes, it's time to egg-zit light, enn-ter night, taaaake my haaand, we're off to U.S. District Court of Los Angeles.

Metallica's lawsuit against Napster (which also initially was filed against three major US universities, until they removed student access to the Napster servers) is likely to be the first of many (by the time I had finished writing this column, Dr. Dre had followed with his own suit.)

What's the bottom line? As you might guess (since this IS one of MY columns,) it's all a (say it with me, kids) BIG LOAD OF SHITE.

These truths I hold to be self-evident:


  1. Napster has little to no redeeming value to society. Napster's legal arguments, as I understand them, go something like this (to be read in the style of Charles Dickens' Tiny Tim Crachit): "We don't know anything about our program being used for illegal purposes, sir. There are bunches and bunches of free mp3's that are fully authorized to disseminate over the Internet, and our software provides a great way to share those public domain files. Of course, there are probably some bad eggs out there who might try to abuse our service, but we'll do everything we can to stop those naughty, naughty people. God bless us, everyone!" Bullshit.
  2. Napster was created, designed, and is used for the sole purpose of scoring free music. It's obvious. It's more than obvious. It's a bootleggers paradise. Type in the band, wham, it's there. Totally free. If someone's using Napster to trade legally available mp3's, I sure as hell havn't seen it.
  3. Napster rules. Plain and simple. It's one of the grooviest things that anyone's ever thought of, and the people who are trying to stop it need to be destroyed at all costs.

Am I bias? Probably, yeah. I like Napster. I think it's a great idea, I think it's great fun. I'll admit it, I download stuff off Napster all the time. I had the entire Oasis album about a month before it came out. Same with the Pumpkins album, and the same with the Cure album. There's nothing quite as powerful to a modern day music nerd than the ability to own rare and unreleased stuff before everyone else does, and that's where Napster becomes my best friend.

That said, what I'm about to declare is the final truth of the Napster debacle - the end-all, be-all:


I have a lot - and I mean, a LOT - of friends who use Napster all the time. Not once have I seen evidence of one of my friends going, "Cool album. Thanks, Napster. Now I won't have to shell out money for this great record."

If anything, the only evidence I've seen of a change in buying habits thanks to Napster is something along the lines of, "Cool album. Thanks, Napster. Now I realize that I need to own this. I'll hop down to the local record store tonight and pick it up."

Remember above when I made my illegal confession? I downloaded entire albums from Oasis, The Cure, and The Smashing Pumpkins before their street date. The whole albums, right here, on my computer. Now let's look at my CD shelves. Hmm... what have we here? Why, it's the brand new albums from Oasis, The Cure, and The Smashing Pumpkins. Looks like I bought all three of them on CD. Now why would I want to do something like that? I already own all three of them, don't I?

It's simple... I own all three of those albums on compact disc because AN MP3 FILE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR A CD. UNTIL I'M HOLDING THE DISC IN MY HAND, I DON'T OWN IT, regardless of what I've got saved on my hard drive.

Napster is, at its most basic level, a phenomenal promotional tool for artists and record labels alike. People are not downloading tracks off Napster in order to avoid paying for the CD (at least no-one I know is using it for that.) All of my friends use Napster as a way for checking out new music, to figure out what a particular band is all about, to figure out if they like the artist before buying it.

I don't have a CD burner; not many people do. I can't make permanent copies of anything I download off Napster. I get it, I listen to it, I throw it in the recycle bin. If it's good, I go buy it. If it's crap, I don't. It's that simple.

And, thanks to Napster, I've picked up some CD's lately that I never, ever, EVER thought I would. I own the new Steely Dan CD. Why? Because I heard a couple tracks thanks to Napster, and thought, "Groovy. I'm gonna have to suck it up and go pick this disc up." If I didn't have Napster, odds are pretty good that I never would've bought it. Donald Fagen can thank Napster at his convenience.

Are there people out there who don't buy any music in stores, and who just sit around and grab free tracks off Napster? You bet there are. They're called college students. And college students don't buy music in stores because of Napster -- they don't buy music in stores because they're all broke. Sure, they're getting your products for free, RIAA - but what's wrong with that? Because if they didn't get 'em for free, they wouldn't get 'em at all. And here's why that's a good thing: College students are absolutely phenomenal promoters. They listen to bands - via Napster, via copied tapes, via the radio - and they LIKE those bands. They go to that band's concerts. They wear that band's t-shirts. They make their friends like the same band. Their friends might eventually elect to buy a CD or two. They make the overall fanbase of the band swell, and it doesn't take a genius to realize that more fans = more chart action = more sales. Let the college kids BE - they're helping your cause, not hurting it!

The bottom line is: Napster is no criminal. They're just a more high-profile version of the same stuff that's been going on for years. If you're going to sue Napster, you'd better sic your lawyers on TDK, on Maxell, on Memorex, etc. Blank tapes are the same damn thing as Napster when you think about it - just another format to spread tunes for free. Stopping Napster is far from stopping cyber-piracy (and I don't even call Napster "piracy" in the slightest - when I think piracy, I think of poor-quality imitation discs, complete with liner notes and bar codes, trying to pass itself off as the real deal in record stores or corner stands.) Napster is only the high-profile example of many ways to score free mp3's off the 'Net. If you stop it, the kids will just turn to Gnutella, they'll turn to IRC, they'll turn to Fserves, they'll turn to FTP sites. Face it, RIAA, when it comes to technology, the 16-year-old kids you're trying to defeat are SMARTER than you and smarter than me... and there will ALWAYS be a way to share files online. You're simply going to have to deal with it, and incorporate it into your promotions efforts.

This is where the aforementioned Fred Durst comes in. Durst, the singer in (shudder) Limp Bizkit, is one of the few musicians out there who's looking at Napster sensibly -- not as an evil, alley-dwelling thief, but as a logical and inexpensive way to build fans. Durst has been outspoken as a Napster supporter, and now the company is paying him back. Last month, Napster announced that they're sponsoring a major summer tour by Limp Bizkit... and admission to all fans will be totally free.

THAT, my friends, is rock and roll.