Napster Up Your Asster

The LowBallAss Chatter crew is hereby declaring itself sick! sick! sick! of Napster! Or, rather, all the pro- and anti-Napster smack-chat being hurled back and forth. Napster has become so ubiquitous it's like the new Elian:Napster on the cover of Newsweek! Napster on MTV! Napster debates by the office coffeemaker! That squishy stuff you just stepped in? Napster! That thing you ran over last night on the 405? Napster! That bit of nose cartilage separating your nostrils? It's been renamed the Napster! If it ever even had a name to begin with, that is. We'd ordinarily prefer to step back from the debate and spend our time guffawing at all the spew-beer-out-yer-nose-funny pro-Napster cartoons on www.campchaos.com, but we figure we may as well weigh in with our (decidedly pro-) POV this one time AND ONE TIME ONLY, courtesy of a rant from LowBallAss Chatter good bud Buddy Seigal and an excerpt from Rock & Rap Confidential, the greatest music tipsheet ever (check 'em out at www. rockrap.com). Remember, downloading is not a crime!

>>> KISS MY STARFISH! Metallica ought to be boycotted forever for snitching out hundreds of thousands of their fans. Is there anything more unendurable in the world than spoiled-brat millionaire rock stars whining about being taken advantage of? Lars Ulrich and company recently compiled a list of Napster users who had downloaded their songs and summarily had their accounts canceled (how they accomplished this eludes me, but that's beside the point). Why don't you hear them bitching about how evil corporate record labels charge consumers 18 bucks for a CD that costs them less than a buck to produce, or the day-to-day piracy of small-time musicians' coffers by those same labels? When the recording industry is reformed from top to bottom, maybe then it'll be time to look into Internet copyright violations. Meanwhile, let's get our priorities straight. Greed is at its ugliest when practiced by the already rich and privileged, even uglier when those same rich and privileged became that way by posing as social outlaws (are you listening, Dr. Dre?). As an independent musician, Napster, MP3 and the Internet in general have served me well. I regularly receive e-mail from people who'd never heard my name but discovered my music online and subsequently bought a CD or two from my website. Metallica and the big labels would take this badly needed exposure and income away from me because the technology means they'll only make $95 kazillion per year, rather than the expected $100 kazillion. Scumbags. Every time technology advances to the benefit of the consumer, Big Business screams bloody murder. But did the VCR bring ruin to the movie and TV industries? Did the cassette recorder drop the music industry to its knees? Last I checked, they were all still there, ass-raping the small-time artist and the public, as usual. I particularly love Napster because I've been able to download dozens of out-of-print songs I've spent years searching for. If they'd been available on CD, I would have bought them. If they become available on CD in the future, I'll still buy them. Napster is a treasure-trove of rare material, like finding a chest of untold riches buried underneath your house. There will be abuses of the technology, just as there are with other technologies. If you use Napster to download entire albums of readily available material you already know you want and can afford, you're a cheap douchebag. Don't be a cheap douchebag—use Napster responsibly, and maybe all the pending lawsuits will result in consumer-friendly decisions. But I also must say I can hardly blame some zero-income high school student for opting not to drop the better part of 20 bones on a new CD when he or she can get it on the Net for free. (Buddy Seigal)

>>> NEVER, APPARENTLY What Metallica is doing makes little sense as pure greed or pure hypocrisy. It makes sense only in the light of the century-long struggle of American musicians to maintain control of their music in the face of a rapacious recording and publishing industry. That's why guitarist James Hetfield said, "Metallica has never been in the back seat. We've always been in the driver's seat." Why does Metallica, like so many other musicians, focus on control? When a band starts out, it owns all its own music, but that music is virtually worthless. The record industry alone has the capacity to turn it into something worth millions. But the price for this alchemy involves an assault on the ownership of the music, on its representation to the public, on the money that it generates, on every single aspect of its postproduction circulation. Famous musicians do not become rich except by continually battling a system that wants to keep everything for itself and give the actual creators barely enough for subsistence. Musicians in this system become gladiators, and lawyers, agents and managers are their armor. After 20 years in the music business, Metallica naturally thinks in terms of being in mortal combat with everyone who touches its music without first getting permission. And Metallica believes that only the band should define that permission: perhaps buying a concert ticket gives you the right to make a tape (screw you, Elektra Records), or maybe buying an album doesn't even give you the right to share it (baby, you can't drive my car, even if I did sell it to you). Apparently, the driving factor behind Metallica's Napster attack was the wide circulation of "I Disappear" from the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack. But that only proves that Metallica still hasn't figured out who its real enemy is. No way could the two versions of "I Disappear" currently circulating be out there if some industry type—fan or not—hadn't illicitly distributed them. If the band kept its music to itself, or circulated it more directly, that couldn't happen till the band wanted it to happen. Doing that wouldn't require punishing 335,435 Metallica fans. It would require not doing business with the culture of thieves that is the entertainment business. As Pete Seeger, the living antithesis of heavy metal, once sang, "When will they ever learn?" (Rock & Rap Confidential)

 
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