Tuesday, June 26, 2007

June 26th - The Sound of Silence

No, William, it was very different when I was a kid.

You only had two choices when you wanted to listen to music. You could turn on your radio, or you could play your records. Radio was sort of fun, really, but where I lived, we only had three or four stations worth listening to. The people who ran the stations picked the songs they played, and they would run these commercials between the songs to pay for the station. Sometimes, on special days or nights, you could actually call into the station and request that they play a song, like "Don't Fear the Reaper" or "Funkytown". Of course, they wouldn't play just any song, because maybe no one else would like it, and they would lose listeners, and they couldn't charge so much for the commercials.

If you really liked a song, you could go to the store and buy it. I remember when I bought my first album - I played it all day for a month. AC-DC. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. I didn't have anything else to play, actually, but that was OK. Most record stores were pretty small, and I bet they couldn't hold a thousand records in them. No really, a thousand. That's it. You see, the store keepers only carried albums that they could sell a lot of, and they didn't have the space to keep the ones that wouldn't sell quick. No, you couldn't just go in and purchase any song you wanted. Well, they could order it for you, but that was a pain, and you had to know it existed before you could. I remember trying to sing the song for the guy behind the counter, and ... Yes. I know. I can't sing.

The Internet really helped. People started sharing their songs everywhere. They used to have this site called Napster that people would use to tell other people what songs they had on their computers, so that others could listen to it too. Really easy, sort of what iTunes is like. You searched for the music you liked, and you downloaded it. What happened? Well, there was this group of people called the RIAA that thought that they owned music - all music. You see, they made Napster shut down because a lot of the music that was shared was under copyright, and RIAA were the people who represented all the record companies. They asked the court to make Napster stop, and the court did. No, not all the music was copyrighted. Yes, people made the point that the RIAA had no business in telling people they couldn't share music that they owned themselves. Yeah - it was stupid. The judge must have been low on his medication or something. You know that the ends don't justify the means, right?

What happened? Well, soon after the whole Napster thing, a bunch of new companies came on the scene and started doing some really good stuff. iTunes started, and there were others, but people could purchase music on the Internet whenever they wanted - just like today. Radio stations started putting their music on the Internet too, so that you could choose between thousands of stations. It was an excellent time to love music. Except for one day.

The big corporations were still afraid of the Internet. They were afraid of all these Internet radio stations - I'm not quite sure why. So, they came up with this plan to charge the Internet radio stations so much money to use their music, that they couldn't stay in business. Yeah - pretty short sighted. So, on June 26th, 2007, all the radio stations shut down for an hour in protest. Yup, all of them. They wanted to get people to pay attention to what was happening to them. Sort of worked, too.

Well, you know the rest. Like everything else, people like their freedom, and a thousand record company executives simply can't defeat hundreds of millions of music fans. It sort of sucked for a while, but it's all good now. Hey, have you ever heard Howlin' Wolf? Search for "Built for Comfort". It's a riot.

1 comment:

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