Re: Napster: thoughts and comments?

From: Emlyn (onetel) (
Date: Tue Jul 11 2000 - 01:01:50 MDT

Alex Future Bokov wrote:
> Who Metallica should really fear is not Napster, but the
> garage band that has just as much talent as Metallica,
> and hasn't been spoiled by royalties. The band whose
> bread and butter is playing live gigs, and their recordings
> are just a way to make a name for themselves. Such a band
> would simply love to have Metallica's problem of severah
> hundred thousand users downloading and listening to their
> songs. Because the next time this garage band comes to town,
> it will fill a stadium with people who first found out about
> them by downloading their MP3's. That's the once and future
> business model for music, folks.

Here's some comparatively short quotes from Lars Ulrich (Metallica's
drummer), on SlashDot a month or so ago:
(full URL here: its
very very long)


"It's very very simple. One of the -- when we monitored Napster for 48 hours three weekends ago, we came up with the 1.4 million downloads of Metallica music, there was one, one downloading -- one! of an unsigned artist the whole time. You can sit there and talk about how this is great for up and coming artists or for unsigned bands, but a big counterargument that nobody gets is, me and you could form a band together, and we could like, make a demo and then we could put it up on Napster. Who is going to give a fuck? Nobody's going to care, because they don't know anything about what sets my and your band out from the gardener and the guy who cleans my pool's band. The record companies will never be extinct, because there will always be a need down at that level. Now where the record companies can become circumventable is when you're fortunate enough -- key word, fortunate enough, to be at our level, where you don't depend on the record company to front you a bunch of money, because you're fortunate enough to have a big pile of it yourself, and you don't necessarily need a record company to publicize, to promote you, because you're sort of kind already at that level."

--- The full interview is a bit of a chore to read, because Lars really blabbers on; a supporter of "more is more" when it comes to talking. However, many of the points are quite interesting; particularly, that Metallica was not actually targetting the users, but Napster the company:

On Napster itself: ---

"What I was trying to say by that was ... there's one thing that people kind of keep forgetting, which is that Napster, they have this sort of innocent smirk in front of their face and they hold up their hand and they go 'We're not really pirates, we're not really doing anything illegal, we're just offering a service,' but what people have to remember, and obviously some of this has developed in the last month, is that Napster is a corporation, OK? They just got $15 million in funding from some of the major venture capitalists out here. They have all along, ultimately getting to the point where they could have a major IPO, which is the one option, or get basically bought out by an AOL type of company. So at some point there will be a major, major profit going on for the people who've invested in Napster. And that money is basically the same as profiting from stolen property. "

--- This bit meanders a lot (damn I wish this guy could focus, focus!), but is a telling quote about the process Metallica went through which ended up in tons of accounts being closed: ---

"And that's where it got, sort of like, wacky, because we believe that when they sat down -- this is another misconception in the last couple weeks, this whole thing about 'Metallica serves Napster with 300,000 names.' You have to remember, they asked for this, OK? That's a point that not a lot of people include. They asked. They said, "If you can give us the Names (ha ha), of people that are doing this (ha ha ha) and we'll take them off (ha ha ha)," like you can't. It was sort of like a dare. And then we hired somebody to basically -- and they could have gotten, you also have to reremember once again, , they [Napster] could have gotten that information themselves. So it became once again our burden, back to the book-of-the-month or the cd-of-the-month scenario. You know, I have to go out to my mailbox, I have to pick this fucking book up, I have to send it back where it come from so I don't get charged for it.

The burden is on me again, I have to sit there with these guys, the names of people trading our music. And you have to remember, the only thing that Napster really has, because legally they realize that it's very very thin, the only thing they have is sort of a public thing where they can pit Metallica fans against Metallica. That's the only thing, that's sort of their, that's their only strong thing, is trying to make us look like assholes in the eyes of the fans, and they're doing, I think they're doing a pretty good job of that. And it's sort of pathetic, because the fight is really obviously between Metallica and Napster. It's unfortunate that the fans become pawns in this, but understand a couple of things. The 300,000 names that were removed from Napster, ok, we believe, from who we've consulted, that Napster has the technology to block Metallica songs off its service, so it's not just about ... we go to them with a piece of information: 'This guy has traded among other things, Metallica songs.' So they take him off the service instead of just taking the Metallica songs off the service. Do you understand? Then this guy hates us, we become the assholes, and that's what they're trying to build their counter case on. And that's kind of a little bit sad I think, it's kind of pathetic that that's really the only shot they have, and obviously because they realize they don't have any shots legally. "

--- I think what they've done (Metallica) is really interesting. Someone involved with Metallica has seen the writing on the wall regarding the ability to protect music copyright in say 5 to 10 years; it will be impossible. Elsewhere in the interview (the details of which I will spare you), Lars says it is costing them maybe 10 times as much in legal fees as they estimate they might be protecting in royalties... today. What they are worried about is entirely losing control of what is equivalent to production quality masters, which will start to cost real money in the future if the trend to mass pirating with digital technology at the consumer level continues - at some point, people will no longer pay anything, or see why they should pay anything, for music.

I personally don't think it's a battle they can win, not by themselves. I'm very interested to see that public opinion has been on Napster's side, not Metallica's; mostly, people want stuff for free, even if it is actually stolen. I'm not a big fan of the ownership concept myself, and I'm not crying for Metallica; they can use (extremely) large wads of cash to wipe their own tears. But at some point the ability of people to be compensated for knowledge work is going to become extremely tenuous, which is a worry since knowledge work is kind of important to our civilised world. This is the tip of the iceberg; it's interesting to watch the strategies of all sides develop.

Who knows, it might end in the glorious anarchic revolution, where everything is free and the world is beautiful.


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