Sort of by accident, I found this wonderful documentary called “Downloaded (2013).” This film is almost two hours long. I’d never thought I would sit through a documentary like this; but like I said, it is extremely interesting and educational for me as far as hearing intimate feed back from RIAA and record labels. In essence, it is a very interesting look at the history of Napster, and how it changed the music industry forever. First, I’d like to say very quickly upfront, the film is not a “how to,” nor is this entire film about labeling all file sharers evil. I wanted to share this not because I want to sway people to think a certain way, but to help both music and film lovers be aware of the effects of file sharing, and how it really could have destroyed the industry.
Shawn Fanning was one of the original co-founders of Napster (long before Rhapsody took over). He quit school to pursue his dream of building a company with a fan based application, that would allow other fans to share files and communicate with other fans of the same artists or movie. Back then, because it has never been done before, it wasn’t officially illegal yet, in terms of sharing files. The music industry was slow to understanding the scope as to how many people were actually downloading, exactly how much was downloaded, as well as the ease of downloading with Napster. However, Fanning very much wanted to work a relationship with the music labels in order to get artists paid, this was his intent all along. However, the music industry still had problems with Fanning’s vision, because the music industry as a whole wanted to stick with their old ways and old formulas.
Many artists were divided on this issue. Some artists felt that Napster was doing a good thing; because statistics has shown that a significant amount of people that used Napster, actually purchased the music later on. Some artist saw it as stealing. But again, it boils down to something that was new, and the people that theoretically stand to lose money (in their eyes) was the ones that were most against it. However, the courts understand that you can’t stop technology, in addition to the fact that the music labels gave no room for fair use instances. Many fans saw Napster as no different than borrowing their friend’s record, then taping it on cassette and giving it back to them (which was legal for personal use). However, the sheer massiveness of the Internet changed the game as far as how fans get their entertainment.
I understand both sides. As I’ve said before, there are those who vow never to buy one piece of music ever again; as a form of rebellion against the greed of the music industry. It is interesting that throughout the legal battles, the music industry NEVER discussed the fact that the reason why many download so much, is because they couldn’t afford it. Once technology moved to CD, those prices went off the chain! However, through the years of long legal battles Napster had with the record labels and the RIAA, it’s helped shape the new business model we have today. Because the music labels felt that if they get rid of the “threat,” and the treat meaning Napster, everyone would stop downloading for free. This never happened; in fact, literally thousands of other file sharing software was developed using the same type of Napster infrastructure. But through the aftermath of all that mess, they have found away for fans to listen to music for free, and the labels can still get paid through an ad supported services. But I think the old peer to peer mindset still exist, and I think it will still take a while longer for old habits to break. JMHO.
After watching this documentary, I realized this might be one of the many reasons why the music labels haven’t attacked YouTube as harshly as they did Napster. They are literally scared of having an even worse repeat performance of piracy, and that people could theoretically stop using legal services like Rhapsody, etc, altogether; and really end the music industry as we know it for good. Even though the music industry would never admit it, the fans won; and the days of milking fans dry was over; and that was the bottom line. It was because of Napster, that music (and film) has now become more affordable/accessible to those who support their artists/actors. There are many companies such as Spotify who have a vision of making music free by using an ad based system. So far, despite the apposing view from companies like Apple, this formula does seem to work (they’re not making loads of money, but they work). But you know what? It is my view that it really doesn’t matter, because no matter what any music streaming service does, at a standard price point of 9.99 a month, the music labels are going to take 80% of the revenue anyway. Music streaming is a very hard business to get into. Which is why business like Live365 has folded. This is largely because labels want more and more money; labels just have a hard time understanding that our economy has changed. Especially when it comes to music, music is a part of our culture, fans have a right to afford their favorite music. Watch it on Netflix Downloaded (2013).
You know I was thinking….. I think that in this day and age; where digital technology is here to stay; it’s absolutely hilarious that we are still using the word “albums” to describe non-physical medium. We we’re still using the word “albums” even for CDs. This goes to show you how much of an impact that old school still has on our society as a people (and not even know it). I think that we’ll still be using the word “albums,” long after albums eventually become extinct. Can you imagine a great grandfather trying to explain to his great grandchild what an album was? LOL… I would love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation. I know that would be funny as hell! By then then I truly hope that every single piece of history has been preserved on digital; and easily accessible by all; without “elite membership prices.” You need to help support and fight for the digital archiving of our history; because once it’s gone, it’s gone (even if it exists, it’s lost).
I thought about something early today, and I think it’s worth blogging about. That is international internet radio stations. I am an avid radio listener, and I use many different applications and sources to get my oldies fix. The one thing I couldn’t help but to notice, is how many radio stations abroad that play classic American music! When I say radio stations abroad, I’m not talking about “Pandora like radio,” I’m talking about “live radio” who are playing our classics. Countries such as Spain, Russia, Dominican Republic, and even London, who has radio stations that are either fully dedicated to American classics, or play a good portion of it. America has effected so many cultures and don’t even realize it. I’ve also noticed that foreign radio stations that play “Top 100” don’t play a lot of American music; especially when it comes to pop or today’s R&B. This says a lot for American classic music; it says that our classics have more meaning, had more structure, and longevity. That’s the difference, most of today’s music is like fast foods, they are only hits today, and is usually never replayed in the same way as let’s say a Gladys Knight, or a Michael Jackson album. So don’t over look web radio stations from other countries, there are literally over 500,000+ (and more unaccounted for (Shoutcast alone has almost 60 thousand)) live web radio stations with all kinds of historic goodness! This is why we use Shazam. We can listen to all of this music free, legally. And, the artists get’s paid, just by us sitting back and listening to our favorite web stations. Please always remember that if your favorite on demand streaming service (such as Spotify or Rhapsody) does not have your favorite song in their library, email or take time to fill out their form to request it, it’s the only way to keep our history alive (especially Black music history). Happy listening and discovery!
If you’re one of those people that doesn’t scare easily when it comes to the possibility of hefty fines and jail time for downloading illegal content; then the annoyance of actually trying to surf just one of these public/private torrent trackers should be enough to reform you! LOL.. Before I continue, I’d like to start off by mentioning two important things. First, I’m NOT writing this article to try to convince you NOT to use torrents, or to preach to you that you’re evil for partaking in illegal downloads. However, I would like to share with you my experience with you as it pertains to using torrents. I started using torrents for well over a decade ago (close to two), and today using torrents has become more of a hassle than what it’s worth, and I’ll explain more in detail as I go along in this article. The time you spend trying to stay “safe,” while downloading illegally (which by the way there’s no such thing as “safe,” I don’t care what bullshit someone tells you! Yes, seedboxes are effective however, that doesn’t mean that one day the music industry can’t make law makers require seedboxes to keep logs, and or demand that accounts be deleted. Look what happened with Rapidshare? Their business was nearly destroyed as the result of back and forth court battles. Everyone thought Rapidshare was the bomb, until a bomb fell on Rapidshare. So, don’t be so confident), and the money we spend on additional tools and mechanisms for downloading, and the amount of bad quality files/corrupt/fake/or infected files you come in contact with, you might as well do it the legal way (or as much as humanly possible). As the cost of legal streaming becomes cheaper (as well as FREE content providers such as Crackle:movies and Spotify:music), and as more content is offered, using torrent technology is now quickly becoming VERY antiquated. This becomes especially true when it comes to music; it makes absolutely NO SENSE to use torrents for music! To risk a cease and desist letter, AND still face legal action? For bloody what? When music is practically free via legal services like Spotify. I’ve seen a noticeable decrease in participation on many popular trackers, and it’s certainly not because they’re lacking available choices in music and movies (that should tell you something). Things have definitely changed guys. Anybody that is still using torrents, it’s because of “force of habit.” The second important thing I’d like to bring up is more of a reminder, that the use of torrent technology by itself is NOT illegal, but the downloading of illegal content is. Example, if you’re downloading an old, and very well known public domain movie called “Night Of The Living Dead (1968),” downloading it using torrent technology is very legal. Or maybe you are using Linux/Unix OS, and like to download open source software made available for free, it is perfectly legal to use torrents. However, if you download the latest Jill Scott album using torrents, it is piracy. I think that it is important for me to take a minute to write about this, because soo many people have the wrong idea about torrents. They are no more illegal or less illegal than using Mediafire, Hotfile, or even DropBox. It’s not the service or technology that makes it illegal, it’s what you’re doing with it. The point of torrent technology is to share bandwidth, eliminating the need to pay a service for storage; such as Mediafire, Hotfile, etc. Thus making files that ARE free, actually free. By the way, you may hear that “USNETS,” are better,” this is an absolute lie. In fact, it is my opinion that you open yourself up to more exposed to infected files, and security breaches. People are so desperate to find ways not to pay for anything, that the public risk all kinds of shit in order to get these illegal downloads, while lying to themselves that these things are great! I can assure you their not, and they’re just as unsafe. You see on the news what are happening to big banks, and they spend a lot of money keeping their systems secure and it’s still not perfect. And many of you don’t even have a bear minimum of a good firewall set up! And you’re telling other people to do what you do! Geniuses you guys are huh?
Some trackers require you to log in once every month (sometimes even more than that), and if you don’t your account will automatically get deactivated and purged. Regardless if you’re on a private or public tracker, more and more fake torrents are produced. More and more fake torrents are being shared without being checked by the uploader, wasting the downloader’s time. If just one person downloads one of those torrents, then 50% of torrent users throughout the torrent world will have that same torrent. Torrents without subtitles or audio translations. Torrents with several hundred tiny zip files. Torrents with several hundred links to various torrent trackers. Torrents with embedded spam and malware that keep your computer infected with something. Torrents with region restrictions on videos. Torrents from users that don’t know what their doing, yet complain about you. Torrents that contain videos with removed audio and a “Cinavia” error (which I’ve seen on public domain movies believe it or not). Swarms with horrific speeds. Torrents with video bitrate that are so low, you are baffled that someone would even consider uploading. Never mind downloading the bootleg version of “Jurassic World (2015)” is illegal; the amount of bulls**t the average true torrent user goes through, it’s not even worth it. Music torrents with 0kb CDA files. Waiting indefinitely for someone to finally upload that special torrent that you wanted so bad; and if found, you discover that there are numerous file corruptions. Please, don’t think links are any better, because they are actually worse; with 0.2kb speeds and each link will be a different service requiring payment for each service. Unfortunately, because more and more people are now using the internet, more and more of those people don’t have a clue as to what their doing. In other words, there is absolute chaos in the torrent world.
Having said the above, it’s not worth all the hassle of using torrent technologies (unless you are downloading Unix/Linux software, public domain movies, Creative Commons, Copyleft, Open Source, GNU licensed software, public learning material, or any other legal files from a legally legitimate website). If you Google “Legal Downloads,” or “Legal Streaming,” you can quickly identify the truly legal ones by noticing repetitions (how many times that company appears (usually on sites that offer various lists of other legal downloads or streaming). Another clue is to notice what companies are the first to be listed by google. Google always verifies a site before they list it; so if Google thinks that a site could be illegal, they will not listed at all (Google Ads). However, because Google Ads are quite expensive, please don’t rely on seeing Google Ads alone. A small streaming company who’s already paying a lot of money for licensing fees, just may decide to opt out on using Google Ads and submit to search engines the old fashioned way. Have a site checker like Norton’s Anti-virus/Firewall bundle, it tells you of any suspicious links from right in your Google search. Since streaming services came to be, we have seen a steady drop in piracy and increase sales in both streaming services and pay-per-download. Now entertainment has become affordable and we don’t have to deal with the hassles of using torrents, and rude ass admins and moderators anymore! And most importantly, not only are there many streaming services that are LEGAL, you can now share the links with other members (or non-members) of the same streaming service, LEGALLY! Or just use YouTube; doing that is certainly a hell of a lot easier than waiting for months trying to get in to a specialty tracker; or risking a DMCA letter (keep in mind that more and more private trackers are using public URL announcements now). If a friend is not a member of your favorite legal streaming service, they get 30 second (music) to 2 minute (video) samples; or they can just simply Shazam it, or search for the song in their favorite streaming service. Stop being so scared! Legal streaming has completely changed the game.
If you still stuck in a time warp, and you still don’t “believe” it’s now legal to share, then just take the time and read the legalese/license for your favorite service yourself (Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, Slacker, whatever) at least. If you are new to music/video streaming, and don’t know which ones to start with, click here or here or here. For videos click here. Common sense should tell you that TV news would be reporting Facebook and twitter users being thrown in jail left and right (hellllllooooo?). Legal services like Spotify gives you FULL access to their entire library (which is about 50+ million songs by now) for a very low monthly fee. Easy to search; easy to create and save playlists; all in high quality; and easy to help the streaming community by rating your music. You also help the the movie goer community too such as Netflix; informing other users as to what to watch; informing the provider as to what to keep in their library and cluing what other kinds of movie licenses they should purchase and make available. Most importantly, if you have an HDTV, I think its best to subscribe to one of these services for best quality. Depending on the movie studio, most content made available is damn near Blu-Ray quality (some services like Netflix even offer 4K streaming). You’re not going to get best quality from a 600mb torrent file; and most importantly a lot of ISP companies like Comcast, throttle, cap, or even block the use of bittorrent applications through their network; you will no longer have that problem at all with legal streaming; and you don’t have to be burdened with quotas or seeding (which also exposes your IP on public announcements). You get the highest possible quality, and whatever service you use, and you know it’s going to work! No incompatibilities, no spending hours searching, no begging for reseeds and hoping for the best. Do you realize how difficult it is to find certain music albums in the torrent world? It is sooo much better to just use Napster or Spotify and call it a day. I think you guys get the picture. Everything literally boils down to, within about a week or two, after a new album is released, will be made available on music streaming/YouTube. So why go through the hassle of using torrents to download it? Movies are usually made available on Blu-Ray about 6 months after it’s released in theaters (depending on how well it does, could be longer). So why bother going through the hassles of using bittorrent when you can easily order it from Netflix? In fact, do you realize that some times movie services like VUDU have selected movies still in theaters? You’d have to pay a little more, but it’s still cheaper than actually going to the movies (no need to download 300 tiny little zip files for one movie, then discover there’s a missing password, plus you know its a horrible bootleg anyway LOL).
Honestly, between 3 of the biggest (low cost) movie streaming competitors, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon, you have all the high quality movies you’ll ever need. Between Napster and Spotify’s FREE accounts, you’re just insane if you still use torrents to get your music at this point. There’s no reason why you should be using torrents for music; even if you’re a serious music collector; what are the odds of a tracker having all your out of print music anyway? Actually, scratch that, because actual collectors prefer to physically buy all their music and movies! It is easier, and most practical to get it from Spotify (did I mention that Spotify is both legal to use and FREE?). Look, I realize that torrents has always been somewhat political as well. Meaning, some people prefer to use torrents as a way of rebelling against the f**ked up music and movie industry who try to put both many fans and artists in the poor house with their greed. However, at the same time, now that entertainment is a lot more affordable, if we don’t use some of the legal services I’ve mentioned, our favorite actors, musicians, songwriters, etc are the ones who take a hit. If we continue not to use legal services like Spotify and Netflix, there will be very few financial incentives for any artist or movie studio to create quality content, and we’d be stuck with even more garbage playing on the radio and on TV. There’s only so much we can take of movies like “Sharknado,” or any movies with giant spiders, or giant snakes made in a laboratory, or giant alligators, or genetically engineered leopard lizard creatures, or a virus turning an entire town in to zombies except for 3 people, or movies with extremely poor CGI, or predictable movies about college kids going away to some cabin for the weekend (usually to have sex) and some devil monster eats them all up, or a bunch of doofie drunk kids decide to mess with a Ouija board (even though the instructions basically says “do not touch”) and all hell breaks loose. Grrrr. LOL
Before digital technology and the internet came along, music and movies were never meant to be free. And it still not meant to be free. Back in the day, taping your favorite soap operas/talk shows/movies, and or copying your vinyls to cassette tapes for personal use did not hurt the music and movie industry; and it was indeed legal under fair use. Movies and TV shows are public access, and have been paid for by the ad sponsors; and records where ok because most people purchased their albums (even if you made a copy for your friend or brother, it still wasn’t enough to cripple the industry). But we also had a stronger sense of “fandom” back then; in other words people were proud to purchase the albums of their favorite artists; their posters hanging on the wall of their favorite artist or band; their favorite movie posters hanging on the wall; we were proud of purchasing things that became collectibles; collectibles that sparked conversations and helped to build tremendous fan communities (such as Star Trek); and in turn supported the artists/actors. However, in the digital age we have to realize that torrents are a whole different matter. Torrent users distributes copies to other users (exponentially) in mass quantities in literally a matter of seconds on ultra-high speed, which does hurt (and continues to) the recording and film industry (let’s not even talk about other forms of piracy). Unfortunately, I think the big problem is despite the ease of use, convenience, and safety of using Spotify, Napster, Netflix etc, many of us have grown too accustomed to solely using torrents and it has become somewhat of an addiction. Some of us have been doing it for so long, that we’ve developed an attitude of entitlement. I ask that my readers not perceive me as a moralistic blogger who wants to judge others who still use torrents. It’s just because “I’ve been there and done that,” that I write with a greater sense of wisdom. I’ve been downloading since the days of “Online Bulletin Boards” or “Electronic Bulletin Boards” in the early 80’s. That’s almost 40 years ago, so not only do I have thorough experience, I have good perspective. When I started downloading, I was buying legal shareware for a dollar a disk from BBSs. So it’s not that “I have a dream of waking torrent users up!” I’m just really thinking of the greater long-term effects of our continued torrent use down the road. If at least half of the 40 million free Spotify users would switch to paid premium account of $9.99 a month (a lot of torrent users spend more money than that buying blank DVD/blu-rays to burn all the Ultra-HD movies they’ve downloaded), that would help the music industry significantly. Spotify is already in essence giving you 3 months for a dollar; that is a huge discount.
Now, the new way of file sharing is sharing Spotify or Napster or YouTube on Facebook/Twitter, while helping others to discover at the same time. Sharing IMDB links, along with HULU and Netflix on Facebook/Twitter. Come and share with us (by the way, people on Facebook and Twitter are measurably nicer overall than members of a lot of these trackers you’re still breaking your neck to get in to) worry free! Not to mention, these services get free advertising by giving us the tools to allow us to share, AND, the actors and performers get paid. I apologize, I know I’ve written a lot, but I also know no one is really talking about this in depth, and we need to bring value back to good entertainment.
Last Update: March 25, 2017
What a great subject to write about I thought. I think it’s safe to say that, we focus more on just using Shazam, than thinking how important the service is to us. I have been using Shazam and services like Shazam for quite a few years, and it has proved to be an essential application to have on any smartphone. But, Shazam just doesn’t help the die-hard music lovers; indirectly they also help the streaming services as well! Why? Well, they are actually “bridging the gap,” between the major streaming services (although iTunes/Amazon both have streaming and “On-Demand” download purchases, I still consider it in the same family of streaming). Shazam is not only the best music discovery application to date, it is an independent service that does not depend on music sales “per-say,” but it’s popularity and near flawless functionality. What I’m trying to say is, the music industry depends on Shazam, not the other way around. Shazam makes money by making it easy for Shazam users to purchase their discoveries on iTunes Amazon, and Google. Now, with the recent partnership of Rhapsody, Shazam can encourage people to slowly move over to streaming services. Shazam plays an important role with streaming services, because each time a user Shazams something, they are not obligated to sign up for another service! Shazam will eventually bring all kinds of services together in one application, making it very convenient for Shazam users. If your particular service doesn’t have a song in their library, you’ll still have a choice of purchasing that song through anyone of the three services Shazam is partnered with. The integration with Rhapsody is still new, so the functionality still needs to be ironed out, but the fact that Rhapsody is there speaks volumes. And the fact that some rich dude invested over $40M on Shazam and it’s research. Music fans are in a very exciting era; how wonderful to be living in an age with such incredible technology at our fingertips!