If asked what the number one distraction that keeps them from doing homework is, most college students will reply, “Napster.” Yes, Napster. Every student has learned to love the self-proclaimed, “biggest, most devoted online community of music lovers ever.” The immensely popular and free Internet song-swapping service has just announced a deal that will in essence, create a merger with the music industry.
Napster plans on renovating, and in cooperation with music companies, will eventually begin charging for downloads. The problem is that the precedent of free downloadable music has been set and there is no going back.
38 million worldwide web-surfers are currently logged on to Napster, making it one of the most frequently visited sites on the web. The process is simple: once the program is downloaded onto their computer, web-surfers must simply choose a user name and password. Then it’s almost instantaneous, a music-lover’s ultimate dream. Loads and loads of endless free music just waiting to be downloaded.
Basically, Napster operates on a sharing system. Registered users search for certain songs or artists, and can download from another user’s personal library or collection of downloads. Napster also has integrated chat options, a “Hot” or favorite users list, and a “Discover” section where users can hear tunes from emerging underground artists.
The music industry claims that the company has caused a decrease in compact disc sales. Studies show that this is untrue, that the number of CDs purchased each week has held steady. Most students will agree that they still buy CDs from their favorite artists, after hearing them on Napster.
Napster is also quite beneficial to many underground artists. It is an outlet for lesser-known bands to get their music spread to a larger audience. Students will attest that they have found some great songs on Napster and that it prompted them to run to the local record store to buy the whole album.
The music industry has come up with its own alternative to Napster. Major companies such as Sony, EMI, Universal, BMG and Warner Music have their own web sites, all of which offer downloads.
There is, of course, a catch. These sites all charge prices ranging from $0.99 to $3.49 for one song. This is hardly a worthwhile alternative. Few people download from these sites.
One of the main reasons is that a compact disc containing anywhere from 10 to 22 songs can be purchased for roughly $ 15.00. Plus, why would anyone in their right mind pay $0.99 for a song if they can currently get it for free with Napster?
Napster has discussed a possible monthly service fee of $ 4.95. The major problem is that the service has been available for so long, it will be difficult for it to begin charging users, and other free, song-swapping sites have already begun to emerge. This is obviously a trend that is not going to pass. These new alternatives don’t offer user names; therefore all song swapping is done anonymously. These clones are constantly emerging out of various college dorm rooms and will continue until corporate America accepts it.
Napster has been a staple on all students’ desktops. Students have been pampered with free downloadable music, and now suddenly the music industry wants to shut it down. This is not acceptable. Whether it is Napster or one of the new and improved Napster clones, free music will always be available.
Students need to protest this move and refuse to pay any monthly service fee. Just wait until something new comes out of modern technology. Free, downloadable music will be a constant fixture on computers in the future.