Something I think that's been overlooked in all the recent developments with and around Napster in recent weeks, is that what the final outcome is, could well shape how music is going to develop on the internet for the next couple of years, or not.

The whole development of Napster has divided the music industry into two camps: those who view internet file swapping as a useful promotion tool, and those that think it's stealing money out of their pockets. Now that BMG is looking to legitimize Napster, it would seem there is at least some sense of victory for those that thought it was grand larceny. But that was always going to be the end game, to quote All the President's Men: "follow the money".....

Napster's current plan is to charge people a $4.95 membership fee each month (each month???? That'll soon mount up, follow the..., you know where I'm going with this) for "promotional" tracks. There's also talk of a high-quality download format that would "time expire" after certain dates where people would be charged for every single download (again, keep following the greenbacks....). So what's most significant about that? Where the money goes.... Those proposals could allow Napster to operate just like the American Record Clubs. Those clubs might sell CDs at a discount, but by virtue of their special deals, they pay a big chunk of money to the record labels involved, under different contracts that mean the musicians get even less than normal. Therefore, the record labels will just sit there and say "it's our money, and we're keeping it all", while still getting to feed their fixation of being anally-retentive control freaks!

The counter argument is that new listeners will hear new bands that they've never heard before and then go off and buy CDs. My repost to that is that if people are paying for it, they'll be a lot more selective in what they download, and new music and unknown bands are going to find it harder to get heard by anyone.

More money for an inferior product while you feed some executives' prospects of getting more money from the stock market will be the likely be the end result - seems to be the way of the world in the 21st century where ever you turn....