Napster is Dead. Long Live Napster.
So to surmise...
Napster is a sort of cross between a programme and a community. You sign up, sign on and download music. When you set up the programme you tell it where your music files are, then when you sign onto their server the programme says:
'Hi there! We've got these songs on this hard drive.'
Then if someone does a search for a song that you have, it tells them that you've got it and they can then transfer a copy directly from your hard drive to theirs. Naturally some people in the music industry didn't like this idea. They didn't think of it and weren't getting paid for it. So out came the laywers who said it's a breach of the copyright and in came the courts.
The outcome of this is that now Napster has a lot of restrictions on it, and it's harder to download as much music. A record company tells Napster that it doesn't want people to be able to download the songs from it's artists and Napster puts a ban on them.
But why do people want to download music for free?
An album costs around £15, some places are more expensive and some are cheaper, but it's a bench mark. And what do you get for that? Usually around 10 songs, of which you may only like 3 or 4. So it's not that cheap really. Working out around £4 to £5 for a song.
A cd single costs between £3 and £5. And on that you'll usually have one song that you like, and a couple of others that are either different versions of the first one, or are available on the album anyway.
So if, say, you buy a band's album and a couple of singles that are released from it, what have you actually got for your £25? Probably five songs that you like and five that you don't, plus another four remixes of two of the songs that you do like. So, five songs usually. That's around £5 per song.
So, why do people want to download music for free?
Because it's a heck of a lot better value for a start.
Now, what are the music companies doing about this?
Closing down Napster. Let's face it, this isn't going to work. Napster is only the most well known of these programmes around. There are others, others that don't follow rules. So shouldn't they really be thinking of ways to keep selling cds, to possibly allow fans to download music for a small fee perhaps? Well, I've recently come across something that pleased me.
The band Muse and their publishers Taste/Mushroom Records are providing something more than a few songs. Their website for Muse relies heavily on flash, but has a built in 'radio', that allows you to select songs and listen to them over the internet. It doesn't allow you to download them though, but they've also given you an extra incentive to buy the cds. Their latest release in the UK, Plug In Baby, has the video for the song on the cd as well. They've even set up an autorun file so all you have to do is put the cd in your computer and it'll launch the video straight away.
On another site, the Offspring one, they have their entire back catalogue available to download as MP3s. Sound daft? Not really. They know that people are going to be downloading their music from somewhere, so they've set this up, and at least this way you might see their tour dates and think about going to one of their concerts.
Another band that provides something extra is Chumbawamba, but these guys have always been a bit anarchistic. Over recent years they have been providing free cd singles that they mail out to their mailing list subscribers. And these are all now available to download from their website, including a remix of thier song 'Pass It Along' which takes a poke at the companies trying to shut Napster down. Considering that their record label EMI is one of them, it's not surprising that they've gained a reputation as anarchists. But they have done something to get their music heard. And they need to, you can't always rely on the radio stations to play your songs. Chumbawamba are best known for their song Tubthumper, well after being known for being the people who threw a bucket of water over a Member of Parliament at the Brit awards a few years ago. The strange thing, though, is that, in this age of pop music and taylor-made bands, their last single 'She's Got All The Friends' didn't get air play on Radio 1 because it was deemed 'too poppy'.
There are other ways for record companies to make money. These three bands have shown that rather than trying to stop the way that music is currently bought or downloaded, it should be embraced. Provide something extra on a cd and people will buy it. Let people listien to more of your songs that are just played on a radio (if they make it that far) and they might start liking you enough to buy a ticket to one of your concerts.