Henry Jenkins misses the soicio/cultural aspects of Napster:
- We didn’t hear our song for a decade.
When we discovered Napster, one of the first songs I downloaded was “My Bestest Friend.” I left a note on the computer for my wife to read through our playlist and see what I had found. It’s hard to make surprising romantic gestures after 20-plus years of marriage, but this one hit the jackpot.
These experiences came back to me as I read some of the hoopla surrounding the launch of Apple’s iTunes service, which the recording industry is billing as its legal alternative to Napster. iTunes gives you 99-cent downloads of any of 200,000 songs from five different music companies. According to some reports, half a million iTunes are being downloaded every week, suggesting that the service has found its niche with consumers.
….iTunes has none of the peer-to-peer features that made Napster so effective at spreading the word about unknown or forgotten artists. iTunes doesn’t allow you to share songs, fair enough, but it also doesn’t allow any easy way for users to communicate with each other, even to share the titles of the songs on their playlists. People are finding ways around that obstacle, but Apple is aggressively shutting them down as fast as they appear.
This leaves room for a competitor that understands the social dimensions of music distribution. Or perhaps Apple itself will come up with a better way for consumers to interact with each other around their music purchases. But we aren’t going to get what we want if we roll over quietly and accept the music industry myth that the only reason we liked Napster was that we could get music for free. Perhaps, in the short run, the most we can hope for is that the major labels will use iTunes to circulate their top-selling titles and then turn their back on the underground trade of MP3s from their backlist. I dream that someday Apple, AOL, Microsoft, or some other company will make me an honest man again and still give me a mechanism to connect with all of those other interesting strangers out there who know something I don’t about the hidden treasures of popular music. [Technology Review]