More on Metallica vs. Napster

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From: Daddy Mack (
Date: Mon May 15 2000 - 17:12:23 PDT

Mike, also a FOIBer, wrote this kickass analysis of the Metallica vs. MP3
battle, and the debate which aired last night between Chuck D (pro-Napster)
and Lars Ulrich (Anti-Napster).

I believe that Lars does actually have a defensible position, although I
also think he's ill-equipped to argue the point for any length of
time. Napster is clearly reorganizing the entertainment business, and
there is no clearly established mechanism by which artists get compensated
within its system of distribution.

The argument that Napster can co-exist with the old world music machine is
thin at best. But what Lars fails to realize is that the most threatened
group is not bands but management, distribution, and promotion -- assuming
that the New World Order accommodates the need for artists to eat.

What we really need to see is a real promise for the support of artists
under a freely-distributable model. If the use of Napster was
subscription-based, for example, artists could be paid based on the number
of transactions per month using a mechanism similar to ASCAP/BMI radio
station licensing. Just a suggestion.

But the problem of ignorance among artists isn't exclusively limited to
Lars Ulrich -- he's just one of a precious few who has the resources to act
on his impulse. The music industry is extremely guilty of greed. Artists
in the top 5% garner 90% of the wealth. The music industry itself is
bloated, however since the emergence of CDs (and lower cost of production)
they have actually catered to fringe music more effectively, using Boy Band
profits to fund the nurturing of underdeveloped talent. This trend seems
to be reversing, however.

The MP3 movement has done a piss-poor job of expressing exactly what kind
of distribution system they propose to compensate artists for the "use" of
their works, one way or the other. The reality is that they are guilty
parties, too -- exploiting legal loopholes for short-term profit. There is
systemic freedom implicit in the world of the internet and that doesn't
lend well to control, monitoring, or measurement.

The argument, streaming from the mouths of the very hypocrites who are
behind Napster et al, that lesser-known artists get exposed via free
distribution assumes that they will ultimately benefit because this raising
of their profile will allow them smoother entry into the old-world
distribution system. This is a ridiculously circular argument if the same
system that brings these artists above the froth is also working to
undermine the traditional music distribution system by which they are
ultimately supposed to get compensated.

Even a Marxist-Leninist analysis (such as mine) of this music industry
quandary identifies the need to have artists be compensated for,
essentially, selling their labour.

So, believe it or not, I think that both sides are acting foolishly. And I
am, despite my obvious love of MP3, not ready to say that free distribution
is an acceptable means by which we can support James Hetfield's heroin habit.

Cat's out of the bag, though.. and I'm glad for it. My heavy use of MP3
has not appreciably impacted my CD buying habit, though I suspect it soon will.


>X-Mailer: Windows Eudora Pro Version 3.0 (32) -- [Cornell Modified]
>Date: Mon, 15 May 2000 12:51:15 -0700
>To: Tom Whore <>,
> "Fork (E-mail)" <>
>From: Mike Masnick <>
>Subject: Re: All Abourd The Clueless Train..
>At 09:22 AM 5/15/00 -0700, Tom Whore wrote:
> >
> >Lars Ulrich of Metallica and Chuck D of Public Enemeny/
> >took the issue of Pro And Con napster to the Charlie Rose show. Here is a
> >summary of the procceedings
> >
> >
> >
> >"If you don't want to pay $16 a CD ... you're greedy and I don't want you
> >as a fan."
> >-Lars Ulrich, Metallica
>I just watched the rebroadcast of this show... The thing that got me was
>how clueless Lars seemed about everything, and not just the technology, but
>economics, human nature, and business.
>He kept insisting that this wasn't against the end users, but against
>Napster, since they wanted to go out and IPO and make millions of dollars
>that should belong to him and the record company. He even says "Come on,
>this is America, no one does anything for free. They just want to IPO and
>make millions" (that's a paraphrase, but he said all that... just maybe not
>in that order). At one point Lars claims that his argument is bulletproof
>because "someone has to make the money" and the question is whether it
>should be Napster or the recording industry, and obviously it has to be the
>recording industry.
>He also says that they encourage people to bootleg their shows and all that
>because they're not perfect copies, but MP3s are, so that's where his
>problem is... (you notice a pattern of cluelessness).
>The thing he keeps going back to is "control". He says it about a hundred
>times, and makes it sound as if no one should be allowed to ever listen to
>his music without his personal approval.
>He also kept emphasizing that all he's really trying to do is start a
>debate, and his fans should respect him more for that. When Chuck D tells
>him that the tool is great for small bands who would never be heard
>otherwise, Lars agrees and says he's not trying to stop that, but then
>explains why Napster should be shut down altogether. As an alternative
>solution he suggests that Napster should be like the "book of the month"
>club, where they ask bands if they want to participate, and then they'll
>send a song to each user each month, and that user has a choice to either
>pay or "send it back".
>He also says "If fans like our music they should pay the $16 that the
>market has determed is the price for our CD". I guess he doesn't know that
>this is an artificially elevated price:
>And, I guess that he doesn't think the "market" works when it says the cost
>of his MP3s should be zero...
>Chuck D on the other hand does a good job of saying "this is what's
>happening, learn to live with it." He makes the point that the problem is
>caused by lawyers and accountants who count "what's not there". That is,
>they make up all these crazy numbers about "lost sales" of people who have
>pirated materials that they never actually would have bought in the first
> -Mike


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