- The real action in music sharing isn't online. It's on foot.
Look at the numbers: Industry estimates say 6 billion blank CDs will be sold worldwide this year - that's one for every person alive today - along with 44 million drives on which to burn them. And 140 million people now own writeable drives - far more than the most optimistic membership claims made by Napster or any of its heirs. "You'll find one on nearly every consumer PC," says Gartner analyst Mary Craig, one of the more bearish forecasters in the business. "They're not using them for backups."
A previous generation of computer junkies called it sneakernet. Rather than relying on the slow, buggy network connections of the day, we hand-carried tapes and floppies to one another's mainframes. Now, sneakernet is in the schoolyard, bringing reluctant musicians to fans royalty-free, without the Net's assistance.
....Duplicated discs aren't nearly as sexy as a global Internet, but they're an efficient local data channel. And most of us get our music recommendations locally, from friends with tastes we trust. A CD burner just closes the loop: "You like this song? Hang on, I'll make you a copy."
Cheapskate yuppies like me have already taken piracy to the next level. In the past, a stack of 20-cent CDs let me copy my friends' favorite albums in 10 minutes. Now, for $499, I can dump their entire collections onto an iPod in an hour.
iPod is marketed as an MP3 player, but under the stylish skin it's nothing more than spinning media. It's a 20-gig disk drive with a firewire connection that can suck down an album's worth of music in less than 15 seconds - with room for 400 more. The interface puts P2P freeware to shame, and it even talks to PCs. With an iPod in my pocket, I don't bother asking for CD recommendations anymore. I drag and drop my friends' entire jukeboxes. Rip 'em now, decide what to play later.
Steve Jobs understands the iPod's potential for grand theft audio. The DON'T STEAL MUSIC stickers he slapped onto them prove that. His sop to the record industry was to enable iTunes to download to iPod, but not to upload. It's a strategy only marginally more effective than the sticker. A free utility called iPod2iTunes makes cloning my friends' iPods a plug-and-play operation.