Sunday, May 15, 2016

Music Years of My LIfe: 1999/2000

Who gets the blame for the file-sharing epidemic of the early 00's?  At the time I pointed the finger right at the Record Companies.  And guess what?  I still do.  I'm going to come clean here:  I stole some songs from Napster.  But I have an excuse.  The songs I downloaded were hard-to find tracks that at that time never made it on to a CD reissue/compilation, etc.
And this was the genius of Napster.  You could find everything.  Once I found one forgotten Top 40 hit, I couldn't believe that others were showing up. There was a giddiness to the hunt.  My attitude at that time was that if no one wants to put these out there for completists like me, then I'm going to find a way to get them. 

I should also point out that unlike some people who used Napster to download everything and anything, I continued to buy albums.  This was a problem, though. Even though the Now series of compiling the latest hits on a compilation had finally hit the U.S. in 1998, before that record companies stopped releasing singles.  Now was an eye-opener.  Suddenly I didn't need to buy full albums to get a couple of good songs.  I could wait for another volume.  Also,  Itunes wouldn't premiere until early 2001.  All in all, consumers were tired of buying albums when they only one song.

Then came the Ipod in October 2001.  Integrated with Itunes and the consumer was finally in command.  No longer did you have to purchase CD's for $15+ when you could get that one track you only wanted.

But my buying habits have always been different than most.  Throughout the Napster/Itunes birth, I was still buying CD's.  But more carefully.  One can't deny the rise of in how buyers spent their money. Comparison shopping became key for me.  And this is where the end was near for Borders, Tower Records & Circuit City.  How often did I go into Borders to check out the price of a CD and then go online to see what Amazon or a used retailer was selling it?  All the time.  And to the point where I rarely bought anything at the big box stores anymore.  

Napster stated the firestorm.  Artists got ticked because people were stealing their songs.  Then along comes Lars & Metallica suing Napster in 2000,  and a year later the fild-sharing giant is dead.  It didn't stop people from downloading.  The went elsewhere and the RIAA continued to threaten the most extreme abusers.  But still couldn't figure out that the problem lay in one thing: price.  

The roots of Napster are still being played out today.  Streaming services like Spotify, which offer and all-you-want deal for $10 are still a problem for artists.  Minuscule streaming royalty statements have made some acts rebel against Spotify.  You would think that in 2016 everything would be available to stream.  But that's not the case.  

I still buy Now volumes, still stream and more importantly, still buy albums.  But I gave up downloading files from elicit sites as finding obscure titles got easier.  Yet, while I'm sympathetic to artists who want a fair payday for their recordings, I have little for the record companies.  Album sales are never coming back to pre-Napster era times.  Occasionally, an artist like Adele will slip through and sell a bunch of CD's, but those won't happen much.  My advise to all involved:  consumers, artists, record companies, music stores.  Give us what we want, but don't try to rob us.  It's the same attitude many of us have had about the music biz since 1999.
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