In the summer of 1999 two college kids, Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, changed the music industry forever – via the internet. At the press of a button the coding duo made their peer-to-peer file sharing service, called Napster, live and the nature of music distribution was reformed. The user-friendly site allowed for people from across the globe to upload their own MP3 files and then share them – for free, a phenomena that consumers loved and record labels hated. Napster did not live for very long before legal battles against musicians and their management ensued. However, its affect on the industry never died out – from its impact on how we consume music, digital versus hardcopies, the software it lends to applications like iTunes and Spotify, to its influence on modern legislation for music and the internet.
Although, I was only five at the time of the birth of Napster, its lasting effects have come to influence my listening and consumption habits. The Napster era has always been of great interest to me, especially now as I am able to fully understand how the site was essentially a decentralized platform for information sharing – an idea that the counter cultures of the 1960s had hoped would be realized online one day. Napster aimed to act as a platform for community and exploration and I can’t help but wonder what potential they could have fulfilled had the legal system collaborated and applauded them for sailing uncharted digital territory rather than fearing them and ultimately condemning them.
Check out this debate about Napster between Lars Ulrich (Metallica) & Chuck D (Public Enemy) and see who you agree with: