Remember the Napster days of yore? Napster was the first chance many of us had to get our hands dirty trying a new crime – music piracy. Come to think of it, cyber-crime might be a more appropriate word, but at that point it was a word as under the radar as cyber-criminals. Record companies, however, didn’t seem as thrilled as consumer America with the inundation of “free” music. In July of 2001 Napster was forced to shut down. I recall being genuinely confused to learn that digital content could even be legislated. The term “digital rights management” was born and integrated into music everywhere, and a whole slew of new copyright laws were rushed into effect.
We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?
Some of the most successful software in the world is Open Source. Some of the most wildly profitable corporations in history are based entirely on internet technology. The fundamental nature of information and how we consume it is changing, and even Grandpa knows it.
Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails released their last album for free – and it topped the Amazon Bestseller charts. The exact same music was available(as it usually is) through illegal peer-to-peer networks as well as being available for download from the band’s own website. Fans paid for something they didn’t have to – and to posit that a fan of Nine Inch Nails doesn’t know about their website is just a little silly. It seems consumer America is finally starting to believe that digital real estate is every bit as valuable as the real thing. A quality product will always sell, regardless of the asking price. Could Trent Reznor, of all people, be paving the way for an entirely new business model?
I see this, all in all, as a truly encouraging trend. The American consumer is showing not only a refreshing amount of integrity, but some true cunning as well – how many major bands do you think will release their next CD only in traditional format?