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Sonic Boom: Napster, P2P and the Battle for the Future of Music

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Sonic Boom: Napster, P2P and the Battle for the Future of Music
John Alderman

The first book to tell the inside story of the battle for control over the future of music and how technology is ripping up the traditional rules of business.As the internet grew throughout the 1990s, software was developed, such as Liquid Audio and MP3, that could deliver music anywhere and most importantly for free. Bands were reaching fans without record company support; entrepreneurs made money distributing digital music files without licensing agreements; the music industry executives complained of piracy and refused to embrace the Information Age.The story of the struggle to define the future of the music industry is a parable of how technology is completely changing the way we think and do business. Internet companies such as Napster, invented in 1999 by the nineteen-year-old Shawn Fanning, were rewriting the rules. Within two years, the music industry was on the attack, Napster was shut down by the courts and then bought by Bertelsmann.The on going battle highlights some of the most crucial questions facing all forms of commerce in the face of the internet: how does the internet change the way we pay for things? How far will traditional businesses go to protect their future?‘Sonic Boom’ is immaculately researched and peopled by the musicians, executives, entrepreneurs and programmers behind one of the most vital questions concerning the Information Age: who owns intellectual content on the web?




Foreword by


Preface by


DEDICATION (#ulink_3db05865-4f99-5304-8e8b-83e12806a44e)

Dedicated to Ernest S. Alderman,for many years of support.


Cover (#uf495bc8e-fc99-5fda-b7e9-f66f75c54644)

Title Page (#ubd3848af-1848-590c-8b7c-bb415be29a59)

Dedication (#ude768497-f63d-52bf-87f5-ca0dc1856aa5)

Foreword (#ucad5bc9a-7584-5331-8048-88b22ba00b4e)

Preface (#u6f9216cd-4946-504c-9e3c-518f24969f7a)

Introduction (#u707d81b4-360c-50b4-afb5-e19752b2ac77)

Chapter 1: Wave of Change (#uf9123cf9-4041-57ac-b8d9-437913fabeb4)

Chapter 2: New World Order (#u85878621-2bcd-5852-8249-9e5bcaf2a826)

Chapter 3: A Culture of Mutation: The Rising Infrastructure (#u3562bd85-ab5c-54ac-8a51-09519dad5ba4)

Chapter 4: Big Breaks and Windfalls (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 5: The Established Order (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 6: A Star Is Born (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 7: No One to Blame (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 8: Out of the Bottle and into Your Ear (#litres_trial_promo)

Chapter 9: A Pyrrhic Victory? (#litres_trial_promo)

Index (#litres_trial_promo)

Acknowledgments (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Author (#litres_trial_promo)

Notes (#litres_trial_promo)

Copyright (#litres_trial_promo)

About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)

FOREWORD (#ulink_003440c8-3b1f-5fb6-8104-3198ca347880)


My first epiphany over MP3, Napster, and the like happened in the Bulldog Café, a smoky bar-cum-Internet joint on Amsterdam’s Leidesplein. I had deposited six guilders into the machine and was deleting spam and trading dotcom stocks when a young British bloke pulled up next to me. We got to talking about the Net, and the guy, named Darren, told me that he has six gigabytes of music files on his hard drive at home. I was instantly impressed.

Turns out, Darren was a drummer in an indie rock band, and this is how he exposes himself to new music, especially tunes from his favorite band, The Presidents of the United States of America, a Seattle trio that he feels has a particularly amusing song called “Peaches.” Just then, his buddy, the guitarist and singer in his band, stepped forward and joined him, harmonizing with their authentic English rock accents: “Moving to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches. Moving to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches.”

The two also use the Net to distribute and promote their own music. As a result, they have developed a modest following around their hometown in Devon, in the southwest of England, and have used their online status to get gigs, including one playing at the Cavern Club.

“The Cavern Club?” I asked, “Isn’t that the place in Hamburg where the Beatles got their start?”

“No, no,” said Darren, “The original Cavern Club was in Liverpool. Now we have one near us.” The guitarist nodded his head in agreement.

“I thought it was in Hamburg,” I said. “Why don’t we just look it up online?”

Not sure where to start, I just typed in www.beatles.com. Up came a notice that this site was reserved for future use by Apple Corps, Ltd.

“Wow,” I said. “That’s interesting.”

“Apple?” said Darren. “What does a computer company have to do with the Beatles?” The guitarist had a similarly puzzled expression.

“You guys can’t be serious,” I said. “You’re musicians from England, and you don’t know the relationship between Apple and the Beatles?”

Now, I’m not one of those 1960s guys. I was swishing around in a uterus somewhere when the Beatles played Ed Sullivan. But I am old enough to have spent a part of my youth watching apples spinning around turntables while memorizing the lyrics to Sgt. Pepper’s. Even my Beatle CDs have the little Apple logo on it. But then it struck me: Not only have these guys never probably owned an album, but they probably don’t even think in terms of CDs or albums. Songs to them are listed on screens, then downloaded and played. It was different than what I was used to. And when I ran this theory by them, they agreed that while they are keenly interested in music, they weren’t much interested in knowing which song was on which album or about record labels at all. They had a new way of thinking about music.

This, to me, was an even bigger revelation than the news nearly a year earlier that one of my favorite bands in the world, They Might Be Giants, would post MP3 files on Yahoo and thus become the first major label band to offer a new album for initial release on the Internet. Like everyone else, my question was: How are they going to make money from this?

But since then, I’ve concluded that such artists are probably going to gain more from these new online and wireless formats than they will lose due to so-called copyright infringement. Listening to the new TMBG songs only made me want to go see the band play those songs.

Then it occurred to me that what is just as valuable as copyright—if not more so—is an artist’s trademark. They Might Be Giants was savvy enough to file for a trademark on their name, protecting the identity of their performance services, way back in 1990, around the time of their classic CD release, Flood. The Beatles, by contrast, didn’t have their first U.S. trademark registered until 1993. (It was filed, incidentally, by Apple Corps, Ltd.) Anyone can check whether favorite artists have filed for trademarks, simply by searching the official trademark database at www.uspto.gov.

My point is this: Artists who grumble about copyright infringement but fail to trademark their own names don’t know the value of their own work.
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