9
May 00

Metallica, how could you?

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Metallica, how could you?: romantic nonsense c/o Salon, a hymn to the good ‘ol days of tape trading. While I treasure my mixtapes I’m far more enlivened by MP3 swapping and the instant-discussion options opened up by e-mail, and what’s more my record collection is too, given that I tend to go out and, y’know, buy stuff I like, which wasn’t the case back in my taping days.

The notion that the more effort it takes to get something, the better that something is, which is pretty much what the writer here is saying, strikes me as a bogus application of the Work Ethic to leisure pursuits. Leisure is meant to be easy, damn it!

Anyway, Napster vs RIAA / Metallica grinds on. Cybercoverage of this story has been pretty one-sided, with most opposers taking a post-copyright, cant-buck-the-future position. My position? Undecided. I’m not an economic libertarian, but I’m no fan of big record companies; I think artists should earn money for what they do without having to flog T-Shirts or slog round the live circuit to get it, I don’t use Napster, but I find MP3s a convenient way to hear new music and judge it. Maybe one sensible thing to do would be to find a way to fit a 30-day self-destruct button into the format, a la Shareware. It’s interesting to speculate on whether the online reaction would have been any different had it been a sainted alt.outfit like Pavement taking this particular ‘stand’ rather than faintly naff metalheads. It will also be interesting to see which-if-any alt.folks rush in to get their damages should Metallica win their suit.

(Here’s another thought: there’s been a lot of talk about bands finding ‘alternative revenue streams’, which tends to involve playing live a lot. But all this will lead to is a return to the good old rockist orthodoxy where only bands who can ‘cut it’ live are worthy of respect – indeed worse, it’s only such bands who will even survive in a post-copyright climate. I’m currently listening to a bunch of XTC demos – on MP3 – and that band won’t perform live because of Andy Partridge’s crippling stage fright. Had ‘alternative revenue streams’ been all they’d had going for them, I’d have been deprived of several of my very favourite records.)

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