Maryann Bowers maryannbowers at
Fri Feb 16 06:29:14 MST 2001

I confess, I'm using provocative language, and playing Devil's advocate a
bit, but to an end.  Frankly I think Napster isn't particularly a threat to
the music industry in the long run.  Ultimately anyone who's really a
serious collector will always buy records for the artwork, the sound
quality, and just because they like record-shopping.  My instinct is the
technology will stimulate sales, and across broader genres, by and for
people who are alienated from commercial radio.  Or not, and the whole
industry will crumble and be rebuilt in some other form.  Who cares. What I
was really experimenting with here was seeing if anyone could get past the
very capitalist, American, fetishism of commodity point of view of "but it
just feels so good to ME to have this free download" or the ever-popular
"that whole industry is just screwed up anyway so I'll take what I want",
and offer a legitimately compelling reason why Napster should be free.  I'm
still waiting.

Now the intellectual property argument is an interesting one, but don't we
need to be practical about how artists of any kind, whether their work is
tangible or not, are meant to survive in a nation whose government is
virtually hostile to the arts?  And from a practical point of view, what's
different about their product from any other?  It's convenient to call a
sweater a sweater but a recording "intellectual property", but at the end of
the day they both put a wage in a lot of pockets, and not just those big bad
rich people.  To continue Wallace Stevens' idea, isn't it a bit fetishist to
imagine that music just drops out the sky, and ignore everyone who made it
happen--and I mean everyone, from the receptionist at the recording studio
to the people in plants who stuff those little insert cards into the jewel
boxes to the kids who work behind the counter at record stores?  They can't
all be undeserving of a living wage, can they?  They're all crucial to your
enjoyment of music.

Nevertheless this is the most interesting, potentially responsible argument
I've heard, so by all means enlighten me.

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