The Last Word for June 5, 2000

Music Piracy

     The word of the year is Napster. For the first time ever, something gets searched for on the internet more than "sex." What overtook our national pastime? "mp3." That word is enough to make Lans Ulrich, the drummer for Metallica, shiver. But why? In Newsweek he says that he does his music for himself, not for the money, and not for the fans. So what should it matter to him?

"The truth is, what we do, we do for ourselves. We don't do it for anybody else. You really have to have that attitude, otherwise it will pollute or distort your creative purity."

     Mental Note: One must be a self-involved conceited jerk to be an artist. I'll be sure to remember that if I become one. So if it's about artistic purity, then it isn't about money. Naturally money will distort artistic purity too. Really, cutting off your hair and making alternative songs was for "artistic purity," not to try to bring yourselves back into the mainstream, honest. And the failure of that "artistic purity" made you try to recreate your most popular album by making sequels such as "Unforgiven 2." And of course, selling off your melodies for people to use is a matter of "artistic purity" not greed.

     With the obligatory paragraph absolutely tearing his selfish "artistic ideals" apart finished, I'll move on to the point. If you enjoy doing art for the sake of art, it won't kill you if people go out there and actually enjoy it for free. Nothing wrong with that. However, if you do care if people get your art for free, it ceases to be about art or principle, it's about money. The battle of Napster and mp3s isn't about art, it's about money.

     Saying it's about money doesn't mean that the money issue is valid however. I'm simply saying that Mr. Ulrich obviously is thinking about money, yet doesn't have the ability to make a valid argument against mp3s and music from the internet. Throughout his entire little rant, he fails to be able to bring up a non-hypocritical point, and fails to cite valid examples to backup his fear of technology and the internet. Of course, good old Mr. Ulrich obviously weighed the matter closely, despite the fact that he states he was instantly infuriated when he heard their music was being distributed on Napster, something he had never heard of.

     According to Mr. Ulrich, there has never been a major band to make it big starting from the internet. However, Napster is sponsoring a concert by Limp Bizkit, other sites could quite potentially do the same, only with no-name bands. Who knows what will happen? High-speed connections and mp3s are relatively new, as are easy modes of getting each. The music industry's economic model hasn't changed yet to account for this unstoppable phenomenon as free CD-quality music.

"The whole notion of music and art and intellectual property is changing. People have been downloading copyrighted music for a couple years now for free, so they think they have the right to do it. But it isn't a right, it's a privilege. And you only have that privilege because the record industry let this stuff get totally out of control."

     So get this folks: we were granted the right (implied by privilege), but it was granted through the non-action of the record industry. I'm confused. Was it granted to us, or did some ingenious people figure it out and start it out with no real permission? According to Mr. Ulrich, the record industry could have stopped technology. That's as ridiculous as saying that web servers should ban the zip format because it compresses things too much, and therefore loses them profits for charging for bandwidth.

     The way that I understand it is that very little money is actually made by the artists on CDs. Of course, Mr. Ulrich's misuse of the English language doesn't lend well to a belief that he understands economics -- but enough personal jabs at him. The way I understand it is that the money is made on contracts to the artists, and on concerts. Of course, the concerts are oftentimes written into the contracts. However, the CDs are the way that the record company makes its money. So why aren't the record companies suing Napster?

     Profit. There is this huge community of people listening to all sorts of different music because they have access to it. Imagine if the record companies could somehow turn this giant community of music-lovers into customers one way or another? They'd make incredible profits. I'd say that the music industry better understands what's going on than does the drummer for Metallica.

     The fact remains that Metallica is being greedy. Mr. Ulrich is making an absolute fool out of himself in the eyes of most college students out there, and for good reason. The Radio is free, MTV is relatively free, so how do they do it? Through ads. There are no ads on Napster, so have a record company buy out the company, stick ads on the search engine, monitor what people download, and then cater to those people's tastes by suggesting artists or whatnot. Flying off the handle and saying that you're not a band for the fans is the wrong way to go Mr. Ulrich, the music industry knows it, and hopefully everyone reading this does too.

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