Man, can you fucking imagine how all those angst-ridden, law-breaking, authority-hating punk teens are reacting to Metallica hiding behind an expensive lawyer and begging for help from Congress? Has rock and roll really died this time? Is the Metallica-Napster fiasco going to be rock's memento mori?
The whole thing is fucking ridiculous. (interesting side note: Slavek informed me that on average, I swear 2.8 times per page, according to a site he found; this text file has the rest of my swearing stats, so check it out!) Metallica somehow caught wind that Napster, a program that lets its users search each other's hard drives for MP3s that they want to download, was letting people freely pirate their music. In no time, Metallica had summoned Howard King as its lawyer, and the attack began.
Metallica filed suit against Napster, claiming that the company knowingly allows for the transfer of copyrighted material. This last weekend (I wrote this Soapbox on May 4th), Metallica had an independent consulting company monitor Napster and keep track of users who distributed Metallica MP3s. At the end of the weekend, they had collected over 300,000 accounts that were guilty. They requested that Napster shut down all of those accounts, and they even dressed it up with Lars Ulrich, the Metallica drummer, helping to wheel in 60,000 pages of legal documents addressing the matter.
Holy shit, man. When the fuck did the counter-culture rock and rollers stop yelling about blood and death and murder and hate and start singing the legalese song, schmoozing with the Suits and Execs?
Needless to say, the online community is furious. Being bored out of my mind, I attended the online chat Metallica held for its "fans" so it could explain its position on the matter. Here is the chat transcript. Of course, the thing was basically a bunch of pissed off people demanding answers from Metallica, and Metallica speaking behind a public relations rep with answers that hardly related to any important issues at all. But some of the things Metallica said really illustrated how far they've come.
Normally I don't like that whole notion of fans claiming a band has sold out. Making money is the subconscious goal, whether people admit it or not. When you are offered a lot of money you're willing to bend the lines a bit in order to do it, even if it means appearing as though you're selling out. Granted, I don't agree with the practice, but I understand how tempting it is. Metallica defines selling out the best out of any example I've seen yet.
Get this. Lars Ulrich, to wit, ""It is therefore sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is."
Ahahaha. Let the roast begin. Okay, Lars, I get it now. When your CD is sold at a bloated $15 to $20 at the store, that's NOT a commodity, yet when your songs are distributed for FREE, they ARE a commodity. When people pay $15 to $20 for your album, somehow it magically becomes art. I understand, Mr. Ulrich. You fucking cunt.
It sounds to me as though Metallica has been misinformed by its lawyer, the notorious Howard King, who is also spearheading another anti-MP3 effort against universities and students, using Dr. Dre as his whore. In the online chat, Metallica specifically was asked if it had ever seen Napster in use before, and their response was that they had never gone to those sites. Quite suspect, given that Napster is not a site, it's a piece of software. Metallica also admitted it doesn't go online very often. Metallica knows not what they do, for they are pawns for someone else's games, and are too stupid to realize it.
Metallica of course claimed that it had no problems with the MP3 format itself. And why should they? It's only a file format that by its nature allows for unlimited duplication and piracy. No, Metallica has nothing against THAT. All they want to do, apparently, is as follows: "The ideal situation is clear and simple -- to put Napster out of business." They went on to say, ""We're not saying that bands who want to be part of Napster should not be allowed to." And then, "We're suing Napster for one reason and one reason because they exist to pirate music, nothing more, nothing less." Okay, this is why they play rock music and not muse upon Cicero and James Marshall. Wait wait wait, is Napster inherently bad, as you seem to villify it, or is it good, because some bands use Napster legitimately? I don't understand. Napster is taking the brunt of this stupid attack, isn't it?
Metallica claimed that these people using Napster were the lowest common denominator of thief around. Instead of having the balls to come out of their apartments or dorms, they said, in order to go to a store and steal the album off the racks, these cowards instead download the music over the Internet. Well well well, isn't Metallica the rebellious, fuck-everything band it became known for?
Metallica also stated in its chat that it was one of the first bands to take a stand against this blatant piracy online before it all got out of hand. Metallica, they said (and I'm not joking), said that it was a band that was always in the driver seat, not in the passenger seat. Hahahaha. Ohh, stop it, my sides are hurting. What fucking pompous idiots. They are trying to come off as progressive and the last bastion of copyright, stopping a multitude of evil, immoral people from corrupting the sanctimonious realm of the music industry.
And what's more, they went on to say that they do not create music just for free -- it's how they make a living. Otherwise they wouldn't do it. Yes, that's right! What more proof of selling out do you need?! My god. Metallica, a scrappy little garage band that tried to get exposure by passing out bootlegs, is now stating that its only reason for making music is to make money. Otherwise, they'd have to get real jobs. And with their qualifications, they could be lots of things: septic tank repairman, burger flipper, the subjects of the newest episode of VH1's "Where are They Now?"
I have the utmost contempt for Metallica now. It wasn't enough that they changed their image from a grungy, nasty long-haired band to a cleancut, posh, stylish MTV group. Then they went after people who were mainly their fans. All so they could add a few more bucks to their already overflowing coffers. You really think that the smaller, less successful bands are identifying with Metallica's pains?
The biggest open source/Linux advocacy site of them all, /., somehow scored an interview with Metallica, and in true class, asks its readers to submit their own questions to be asked to the band, which can be found here. In fact, that's where I got a lot of info for this Soapbox. Anyway, one of the funnier things posted was this: "What were you more surprised by: The fact that Napster makes it easy to access music, or that there were actually as many as 335,000 people out there who had any interest in Metallica?" LOL.
That's just the thing. The only people being shafted here are Metallica fans. And all of it is being done under the shield of antiquated copyright law which in my mind there is no doubt it'll be obsolete and completely replaced within the next decade.
Let's get to the effects that all this will have. First of all, even if Napster is brought down by a collaboration of starving multimillionaire artists, other pieces of software that's even more impervious to attack already exist. There is Gnutella, an offspring of Napster, which uses a distributed network instead of a centralized one on Napster. To explain, Napster has a base of servers that people connect to in order to search libraries of the current music online. This means that lawyers can go after the company or organization that hosts those servers. With Gnutella, it has no central bank of servers -- users connect to other users and the libraries are shared in that way. This is how the Internet works. There is no main "artery" as Metallica calls Napster. You can stop one node on the network, but hundreds of others spring up during the time you spent on the one node. Also, the loss of Napster would be the loss of what is really only a recent innovation. Metallica songs are passed freely through FTP sites, IRC networks that have automated bots distributing music, passed over college and work networks, etc. That's how it's been done for years, and there's no way that that will ever be stopped.
Metallica is indeed sacrificing its own image in order to fight an overwhelming tide. It probably has no clue about what it's getting itself into. Metallica has succumbed to the Internet's effect. Raising a furor over something will only expose it to even more people who will begin to use it and love it. The Internet thrives on publicity and attention. The best thing you can do online is to shut up and not say anything. Calling attention to a problem has the adverse effect of increasing its popularity, simply because there are millions of people who do not CARE if someone like Metallica doesn't get their money.
I have changed my views on copyrighted material. I really no longer care if artists get paid. I mean, honestly, MP3s don't seem to have any documented negative effect on the industry. Even the Recording Industry Association of America admitted that its CD sales were at record numbers last year, despite the huge MP3 movement. I do not buy their argument at all. In fact it seems as though peoples' music influences are more diverse now and that people are buying CDs just as they were in the past, because they still want that perfect CD quality with the special insert and jewel case. Ironically, many people still feel they should pay for albums even though they can get them for free. They are VOLUNTARILY paying! Imagine that.
Another effect is that in ten years, when the whole music industry has changed and artists and fans exchange money for music in ways more fair to everyone, such as through very inexpensive charge per use systems, or not even exchanging money at all (with artists earning money through live acts or whatever), is that Metallica and Dr. Dre will go ON RECORD as being groups that bent over for the lawyers and Congress. There will be NO denying that these groups sold out, that they lost their counter-culture appeal, that they alienated themselves from their fans. I am happy to let them hang themselves, even if they manage to victimize weak chains in the link like Napster.
Metallica hopes that their attack will allow other artists to be more courageous about bringing their claims to the public as well. But in fact, the opposite is occurring. I have read stories of overwhelming disgust for Metallica from other bands. And I applaud them for remaining true to the fans and to the profession. A guy I know on IRC said that he just went to a Joe Satriani concert and while another of his guitarists was playing a solo, Satriani said that you could get his album online in MP3 format. "Just don't tell Metallica," he added. Hahaha.
The Bloodhound Gang's current tour has the word "Metallica" crossed out with its own lightning bolts. Chuck D, a former member of Public Enemy, has openly promoted Napster, saying it allows for an entirely new way for artists to distribute their music. He recently announced a contest to come up with rap lyrics promoting Napster.
And this, an excerpt from an article detailing the online chat session, said, "Not all artists, however, are anti-Napster. The Offspring recently spoke out in support of the company, while Limp Bizkit announced that it would embark upon a completely free tour sponsored by the software maker. 'We believe that the Internet and Napster should not be ignored by the music industry as tools to promote awareness for bands and [to] market music,' frontman Fred Durst said at a press conference. 'We could [sic] care less about the older generation's need to keep doing business as usual. We care more about what our fans want, and our fans want music on the Internet.'"
"I kiss you!!" Those words just make me want to go out and buy albums by The Offspring and Limp Bizkit. These people are the true people with balls, the people who are acknowledging that more liquid forms of distribution are ultimately good for artists. They follow a tradition of some older bands like the Grateful Dead and the Black Crowes that have given their fans considerable freedom to distribute band performance tapes and whatnot. They remain true to what the young generation wants and is attracted to. They see music for what it is.
Bands are taking sides, and it is obvious to me who will win. Metallica's motivations are entirely based on money, and they will end up looking like the fools in all of this. And rightly so, I say. I have no tolerance for such idiocy and hypocrisy. One of my basic tenets in life is loyalty, and when someone breaks loyalty, whether to friends or a significant other or to fans, I can almost never forgive them.
Fortunately, our market is set up so that it won't forgive disloyal people easily either. Metallica will get what it rightly deserves.
From Queen Hetfield: "There has to be someone that is established, with integrity, and who has respect from all aspects of the music industry and beyond, and Metallica is one of those bands."
ROFL. Am I living in an alternate universe?
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