Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution
Subject:   Napsters threated rating companies, not music.
Date:   2002-12-15 04:44:48
From:   blaquesmith
To Tim O'Reilly,
In your article "Piracy is Progressive Taxation", you noted that your daughter and friends sampled many bands from the last 40 years, and that prompted them to look for, and buy more CD's. This is similar to my musical experience. When I was in high school (1972 grad), I listened to albums that my friend bought. I when I went to college I swapped cassette tapes with dorm-mates. Also, FM radio was on the rise during those years, but the major ad money was still going into AM. FM radio station owner were willing to experiment and let DJ's play what they wanted, as long as surveys showed there was a growing audience. That produce "Underground" radio stations that played whole albums instead for repeat play lists. The overall effect for me was I bought a greater diversity of albums, not 45's or 8 tracks.
Fast forward through the 80's and 90's, and then Napster happened. I didn't bite at first because I was conscious of piracy issues. Then one night I was searching the Internet for the theme song from a 1980's British Sci-fi show. Web search engines came up blank, so I submitted and inquiry to a newsgroup, (when automation fail, talk to real people.) Sure enough I got two answers back that gave me the author and the song title. But, the respondents told me the song had only been available for three months one summer in England as an EP CD. No chance of finding this, I though, it's long out of production. Then I remembered Napster. Sure enough I found a passable copy of the song. That sold me. While Napster was active I bought several CD's that I would not have normally purchased. The whole idea of a music archive and sampling system was proven to me and many other. And yes, it is too bad the record labels believe their own BS, or do they?
The music and television industry lost contact with there customers decades ago. For me this was evident in the migration of 'Top 40 Radio' from AM to FM in the 1980's. They were willing to kill a new market in order to graph on their known market. Broadcast programing is hooked into a loop hunting advertising dollars. For example, the broadcasters promote programing that their market surveys endorse. The rating companies rank the broadcasters ability to match the requirements of the market as outlined by marketing surveys. The advertisers put their money into the high ranking broadcasters that fit their market demographic surveys. At all points the system is justified and rational. But where is the customer really given a voice? No where. Once the system is primed, it is self sustaining. But this is more like a confinement fusion reaction than a fission reaction. While the pressure is on, the reaction is self sustaining, but if something upsets the confinement field, the reaction goes away. (This explain not only all the me-to programing, but also the occasion upset a fresh voice produces.) Napster had the potential of upsetting this whole process. It could have become the biggest and best market survey engine going. I think that was a greater danger to more people than the "lost CD sales".

Ruben Jeffries