July 27, 2001

Napster Bad, Metallica Good?

Maybe Napster is killing music after all.

Not in the RIAA sense of screwing thousands of starving musicians out of publishing revenue that is rightfully theirs. Hell, I've played on quite a few records in my day, and I've never seen one red cent from publishing.

No, I would posit that Napster is killing music simply because it's just too much of a good thing.

Sure, at first an endless supply of free music sounds like a good thing. I can download something I've heard about, or never heard about, swish it around, and spit it out if it's wack. If it's good, I add it to my folder of more than 3,500 other wonderful mp3s. (I'd have more, but my 13GB hard drive is pretty much maxed out.)

So my Winamp is on endless shuffle, and I can listen for a whole week at work and never hear the same song twice. Groovy. But as time goes on, I start to wonder, "Is this all there is? Am I missing something? Is there something out there that I haven't heard?"

And like the actor or rock star or politician who has easy access to every sexual aberration, I've become bored of the plain vanilla. I feel compelled to seek out new, strange sensations, musical perversions I never would have considered before Napster. Like Fantomas or Dillinger Escape Plan. These bands are like musical paraphilias, the aural equivalent of frotteurism. These are the kinds of bands you want to sleep with, but no way are you bringing them home to meet your parents.

Napster is to music what the birth-control pill was to sex: We can now listen without responsibility. If I'm actually paying for this stuff, all of the sudden I'm a helluva lot more selective. But with free music, like free love, I'll slip it to the fat girl in the corner without thinking twice.

Napster may be in its death throes now, but the damage has been done. I've already got every Elvis Costello and Burt Bacarach demo there is, as well as all the really cheezy emo-pop I wouldn't be caught dead walking up to the counter to purchase. God forbid I should have to start cruising mp3.com for my fix.

Oh, and the Metallica thing in the title? That was just a gag. They suck too.

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