Napster/Gnutella: the real story

Posted 15 Jun 2000 at 19:09 UTC by mathieu Share This

Well, I guess this is already on slashdot but since I never read slashdot and maybe a few people here do so, I thought some people might find the folowing paper from Courtney Love interesting. (yes, she obviously has a brain ;)


I have newfound respect for Courtney Love, posted 15 Jun 2000 at 20:29 UTC by Ricdude » (Journeyer)

A while ago I tried to research just where my $15 us for a CD went, and came to the conclusion that the "industry" probably got the lion's share, and maybe the artist got $1. For a more detailed breakdown of where the money goes, using a real life example, see http://www.interstate40.com.au/NEWS/Nov_Dec/Trouble.htm

There's also an interesting, but impossible to follow description at http://www.ascap.com/artcommerce/money-intro.html. ASCAP is one of the two major "licensing" companies in the US. These are the people you pay in order to broadcast popular music if you're a radio station. They distrubute the money to the artists (theoretically).

All in all, I think this is the first artist I've seen who has a solid grip on what's going on and sees the potential for where the internet *could* take the performing arts, and isn't afraid to piss off the status quo. Go Courtney! My check's in the mail

Courtney Love, posted 15 Jun 2000 at 20:38 UTC by Uruk » (Apprentice)

I read that article and thought it was absolutely awesome. But I'm a bit conflicted really as to whether I believe all of it. The way Love's analysis broke down, there was a real possibility that a musician could sell 1,000,000 copies or more of a CD and end up working at a 7-11 because they didn't have enough money to support themselves.

I figure that a lot of musicians income comes from touring, but strangely enough, the musicians who seem the richest don't really do much touring. (Like Michael Jackson). Granted though, that's just the way it seems. Also, you don't see musicians doing many endorsements. I don't hear radio commercials or see TV ads where the latest college rawk band is hawking so-and-so's new clothing line.

But they've got to be making money, right? Why else would some of the more artistically bankrupt "artists" keep going if they weren't making any money at all? I mean, like Courtney said, I'm sure it's a lot of fun to go on the Letterman show and be all over TV, but "fun" doesn't keep the lights on when the power company sends you the bills.

Her analysis that seemed to have musicians coming out with next to nothing smells a little bit fishy, but I can't say that she's wrong. There is no doubt in my mind that artists are getting totally screwed and that the labels are keeping the vast majority of the cash, but to say that the artists are poor? I can't decide whether I buy that or not...

some artists are poor, posted 15 Jun 2000 at 21:14 UTC by garrison » (Journeyer)

Where do you think one-hit-wonders go? A lot of them just end up getting screwed by the majors, and they have nothing left.

Numbers, posted 15 Jun 2000 at 22:08 UTC by jae » (Journeyer)

Courtney's essay was posted on nettime, which prompted someone to also post an (older) essay by Steve Albini (producer of Nirvana's "In Utero" (among others) and boss of "Shellac"), which gives numbers of a (fictitious?) recording contract situation.

It's at www.negativland.com/albini.html.

The other artists, posted 15 Jun 2000 at 22:17 UTC by Iain » (Master)

While it's nice that Courtney Love, Chuck D and others, don't mind people copying their stuff with Napster, we should also be able to understand that it's still up to the artist who makes the music whether it is piracy or not. If they think CDs are not overpriced, then thats the price they put on their music and to get it you have to pay the price.

I'm not saying people here don't, just the impression that I get from the "The information wants to be free" people (wrt to Napster etc) is that "The information wants to be free, and if it's not, we should take it anyway". My personal opinion is "The information wants to be free, if the guy who created it wants it to be." Yeah, technically it's still piracy as the RIAA (or whatever the UK equivalent is) doesn't want me to take it, but like Courtney said, they stole it from the artist in the first place, so I don't care :)

The richest artists..., posted 15 Jun 2000 at 23:34 UTC by lalo » (Journeyer)

Uruk:

> I figure that a lot of musicians income comes from touring, but strangely enough, the
> musicians who seem the richest don't really do much touring. (Like Michael Jackson).
> Granted though, that's just the way it seems. Also, you don't see musicians doing many
> endorsements. I don't hear radio commercials or see TV ads where the latest college rawk
> band is hawking so-and-so's new clothing line.

If what I heard is correct, it is possible to make lots of money from recording, but you have to be really big and sell astronomical quantities, like Michael Jackson for example.

Michael Jackson's riches in black and white, posted 16 Jun 2000 at 00:47 UTC by raph » (Master)

Basically, Michael Jackson managed to get rich by moving up from the sharecropper to the plantation owner class. From one fan site, I find that he bought the rights to the ATV catalog for about $47M in 1985, and merged it with Sony in 1995, making about $110M in cash and retaining 50% ownership. ATV owns 100% of the rights to the Beatles, Elvis, and Presumably, he got the original $47M in the first place by exhibiting similar savvy in his earlier career.

Ironically, while Paul McCartney is also known for his talent at the music business, he was nonetheless outbid by Jackson for the Beatles catalog. MPL Communications nonetheless has a rather impressive catalog of its own. MPL has sued MP3.com as well.

These are times of exciting change for the both music and free software. I wish Courtney Love the best of all possible luck in her projects. She sounds like quite the person to take on the music industry.

slightly tangential note, posted 16 Jun 2000 at 09:22 UTC by rillian » (Master)

Slashdot also linked this (not very good) article about sightsound.com planning to set up a gnutella server to distribute a some of the movies the have rights to. These are the people with the 32 minute, US$3 million, made-for-the-internet short film that was in the news some weeks ago, and the people with a a patent or two on the sale of music for download.

The idea seems to be to distribute the movies in an encrypted format, and then sell decription keys. Thus, it's no problem for the files to be freely traded, since one has to call up and give them a credit card number to decrypt the file and play it. As much as I believe in giving away the download and selling the dvd, I actually wouldn't mind if this could be made to work. I think it would be a great in terms of getting online distribution going, and I'm naive enough to hope that the economics would become more obvious to the distributers once they're on the net. And of course they're being such radical hipsters for marketing to the trading "community" rather than foreswearing any contact with the prirate devils. If they're lucky, they even get server capacity for free!

The problem of course is that they're using a proprietary system (designed by Microsoft) so not only will it not work on any non-windows platform, as a buyer you have no guarantee that you'll be able to watch it in perpetuity. If you think of it as renting, maybe that's not so bad.

From the seller's point of view, because it's a closed protocol, it's almost certainly not as secure as they're saying it is. I suppose we could pretend that's a good thing, but my geek sensibilities are offended by the wrongheadedness of all this.

Does anyone know how this works (technically) or have an idea for how you could do this? A method that makes it impossible not to just trade the decryption key along with the file? I can't come up with anything that doesn't rely on security-through-obscurity.

The other artists, posted 16 Jun 2000 at 11:47 UTC by richieb » (Journeyer)

Ian writes:

While it's nice that Courtney Love, Chuck D and others, don't mind people copying their stuff with Napster, we should also be able to understand that it's still up to the artist who makes the music whether it is piracy or not. If they think CDs are not overpriced, then thats the price they put on their music and to get it you have to pay the price.

But don't forget that the "other artists" have signed away the rights to their own music. Once the sign the contract their music is owned by the record company. So they have no say what happens to their creation. For example they don't set the price on their CDs.

I think this is more of crime than Napster ever was or will be.

...richie

Other artists, posted 16 Jun 2000 at 13:56 UTC by Iain » (Master)

Richie spells my name wrong and writes :)

But don't forget that the "other artists" have signed away the rights to their own music. Once the sign the contract their music is owned by the record company. So they have no say what happens to their creation. For example they don't set the price on their CDs.

I think this is more of crime than Napster ever was or will be.

Oh, I agree with this, but like Courtney said, they are just the distribution/the gatekeepers, and what I will do is based on what the artist says. Metallica don't want me to pirate their stuff, then fine if I want to hear a Metallica song (I dunno, it's not happened in 22years so far, but it might), I'll go out and buy a CD. Chuck D doesn't mind if I download his stuff, okay, I'll get it that way. Neither record company wants me to download the stuff, but I'm ignoring them.

Impressed, posted 16 Jun 2000 at 14:46 UTC by yakk » (Master)

I was really impressed by Courtney. I've been a fan of here music for quite a while and I've always heard that she is really intelligent, but to see a discussion of how music distribution should be working these days from someone who isn't techically oriented was great. She gets micropayments. She quoted Snowcrash!

To Iain: she actually said that she supports what Metallica are on about. She was basically saying that she doesn't want her art to be treated like a commodity by Napster, but then again she doesn't want her art treated like a commodity by the record companies.

To Yakk, posted 17 Jun 2000 at 00:22 UTC by Iain » (Master)

Oh, I know, and I support Metallica too.

Okay, they ma be going about it the wrong way, but it's their progative. Courtney however said that she would support napster if they supported her, and I think she said (I read it yesterday, my memory doesn't stretch back that far) that she didn't mind people trading her stuff.

I have been keeping the diary full of my thoughts on the subject., posted 18 Jun 2000 at 19:07 UTC by highgeek » (Master)

As a resigned member of the founders group of MP3.com, I can't help it but still be interested in the developments in this field. If you are curious feel free to check out my diary.

Steve Albini's view, posted 18 Jun 2000 at 19:18 UTC by highgeek » (Master)

You might also want to read producer Steve Albini's view, which would be good to put right next to Courtney's.

another good article..., posted 20 Jun 2000 at 04:55 UTC by jwz » (Master)

Courtney Love's article was great, even though it was a rehash of Steve Albini's much older article (but that's ok: these things need to be repeated, and Albini wrote his before Napster.)

But another really good one you should read is ASCAP and BMI: Protectors of Artists, or Shadowy Thieves? by Harvey Reid.

Smash the state.

Courtney Love, posted 21 Jun 2000 at 17:51 UTC by jkdufair » (Apprentice)

I was extremely impressed by that article. I am beginning to wonder if she wrote it, however. The more I find out about her the more I think she'd have a hard time getting through the first chapter of Snow Crash. Memepool had some very interesting links to evidence that Curt Cobain was murdered and some (less convincing but still kinda smelly) evidence that points to her involvement. At this point I don't know what to think of her. I went and listened to a bunch of her music after reading the Salon article and, as much as I'd like to, I can't say I enjoyed her music at all. There certainly didn't seem to be that inventive, creative spirit that I'd hoped for. What an enigma.

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