Show Me the Money!

Everyone lately has given his or her opinion about Napster and not to be out done, I feel obliged to comment as well.

Does Napster spell the end for big business in the music industry? At first glance, it would appear that, yes, the music industry as we know it is doomed. However, a closer look reveals that Napster is not the threat that it would at first seem.

What is the main benefit of peer-to-peer computing? An extensive collection of files. By combining the hard drives of everyone connected to the network, the storage capacity is greatly increased. At any given moment there are 500,000 songs available on Napster. This means that there are 1200 gigabytes of disk space almost continuously. Not only the storage capacity is increased but the computing capacity as well. SETI@home is probably the most cited example of distributed computing. By using the unutilized cycle time of individual computers (while the screen saver is active) SETI scans more data per period of time than would be possible on a single computer.

This is not a new concept. The same structure has been available using Carracho or Hotline for years. Napster has added a search engine and the same software is used for the client as well as the server. This makes it more user friendly and more accessible by mainstream America. And that is where the main concern lies: Mainstream America. If the masses can get their music for free, why would they bother to pay? Statistics show that two-thirds of Internet users said that they would not pay for music online .

I believe, however, that the majority of individuals will continue to pay for their music. As a matter of fact, I personally have purchased more music because I downloaded it first. Studies are beginning to reveal this trend as well.

Music in MP3 format is simply not convenient. It takes up a lot of space, it takes a long time to download, and then you have to transfer it to a portable device or purchase a MP3 player component for your home stereo. This incompatibility and immobility makes MP3 an unattractive first choice at best.

Let’ s assume for a minute that everyone has broadband and 10 tetrabytes of personal storage space and a portable MP3 player that holds 30 days worth of music. Would this kill the music industry? No.

In the end, except for one-hit-wonders, music is something that you collect. I enjoy looking through my collection of CDs, tapes and even records. I enjoy reading the lyrics, reading what the band has to say, the credits, etc.

There have been new business models that provide music for a fixed amount per month. An analogous service already exists: cable (or even pay-per-view television). I still have friends with a large collection of videos and DVDs even though the same product is available in a different format. Why? For the same reason that I have an extensive collection of CDs- to collect them.

Music is to be shared. Music is the common language of the world. Are you going to give your best friend a Zip diskfull of MP3s for his birthday?

Industry executives need to let the music play, and enjoy the increased distribution of the recorded material. Everyone benefits: the recording labels, the artist, the record stores and the music lover. This should give the record industry hope in a seemingly hopeless world. And yet another way to exploit MP3s- by making the CD that you purchase value added- i.e. lyrics, pictures, innovative and creative jewel boxes, etcÉ, the only consequence that MP3s will have is increased sales and fee marketing. Where’s the crime in that?

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