I believe we owe a debt of gratitude to two pop-culture entities that have shaped how we consume our music these days:
During the late 90’s/early-millennium, Napster was the powerhouse for peer-to-peer MP3 file sharing and—if you lived under a rock (or weren’t born yet)—caught the scathing attention from heavy metallers, Metallica. You’ve really got to think about it though: the two probably shaped a major part of how we live our lives at this very moment if a.) The software wasn’t available for some college freshmen tool in a dorm room to “share” music and b.) If Metallica hadn’t gotten in a tizzy and all pissed off that people were “stealing” their music. Think of the existential problem we’d be facing today if Napster hadn’t blossomed and if Metallica hadn’t blown the whistle.
Would newspapers be in more abundance than they are now?
Would cars have built-in Wi-Fi?
Would bar codes be used only by UPS and Fed Ex?
Would the iTunes store even exist?
The hell with that, would the countless mass of mobile devices be as advanced as they are today?
Before the keyboard assassins litter my page with their vast knowledge of early-millennium pop culture, I’m aware there are a number of countless outside factors that could play into my theory. I just happen to believe that the inception of today’s current pop culture is embedded in the early days of P2P sharing. Napster.
If you weren’t aware, Napster continued to thrive throughout the last decade as one of the first music services that allowed their customers to buy and stream tunes. Over the years they tried to thrive in an iTunes-dominant world and have clasped onto whatever digital relevance they could gain in today’s environment—and I have been with them every step of the way.
I have been using Napster since the company went public all those years ago and have been through each of their growing pains. The times when the radio station wasn’t able to get a new release to me, I’d consult with my friend, Mr. Napster. Nine times out of ten, Napster had the album available for streaming and I was able to give my insight on whether the album was worth the buy. While a lot of people didn’t use the service, it proved beneficial in the times that I had to play new album tracks during some of my appointed segments—no one would have guessed I was streaming music directly through the station computer.
Early this afternoon, my email greeted me with Napster’s final growing pain into full digital adulthood (or death). It’s like that moment in the Matrix: Revolutions when Agent Smith stabs his hand into Neo’s chest and duplicates himself only to have the entity morph and explode into something a little more stable. It’s kinda how I felt when I read the newsletter from Rhapsody’s music service saying they have now completed the Napster/Rhapsody transition—one that I had known about for months. I was just waiting for the day when I’d have to type r-h-a-p-s-o-d-y dot com into my web browser. Today was that day.
So today I pay homage to Napster and all of the little thieves out there who pissed Metallica off enough allow Steve Jobs and other music services to inject themselves into my daily life. Thank you, because without you, today’s mobile devices wouldn’t be around to listen to masterpieces like the latest Lou Reed/Metallica album.