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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Chuck D takes on the record industry
Record industry says 3.6 billion songs are illegally downloaded per month
Millions of tunes downloaded every month
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Alfred Hermida
By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology staff
A handful of leading musicians are embracing the possibilities offered by digital music, among them Chuck D, co-founder of rap group Public Enemy.

He was one of the first high-profile musicians to adopt online distribution, becoming something of a standard bearer for the MP3 movement.

"Digital music has had a great impact if only because the public has gotten it first, before the industry, and that's a major accomplishment," Chuck D told the BBC programme Go Digital.

"It has shifted power in a lot of different areas, enabling people to become participants in the music business."

Nation of fans

His seminal band, Public Enemy, was the first to offer an entire full album as a digital download before it was available in stores.

Rapper Chuck D
Chuck D: No fear of an MP3 planet
The online exposure, via the now-defunct online record label Atomic Pop Records, helped the group sell 300,000 copies of There's A Poison Going On in 1999.

These days, Chuck D is heavily involved in several online projects, including his online radio station,, and a hip hop site,

The legendary rapper sees the internet as a key way to reach out to fans.

"It's a fantastic exposure area," he said. "It is a fantastic opportunity for artists to be participants and also active in the new music world that's forming right now."

Fear of a MP3 planet

Chuck D's views have put him at odds with the big record labels, which see MP3 music files as a virus that is destroying the music industry.

One government's legislation is not going to stop the world embracing new technology

Chuck D
Downloading songs from illegal internet sites and making copies of CDs has been blamed for a global slump in music sales.

Trade body the Recording Industry Association of America has estimated that about 3.6 billion songs are illegally downloaded per month.

Chuck D is critical of the music industry's attempts to shut down services like Napster that enabled music to be shared over the net.

"One government's legislation is not going to stop the world embracing new technology to get information as well as entertainment. There will have to be give and take on these issues in the future," he said.

Making a dollar

He believes that digital music can work for an artist, allowing them to take control of their work and get closer to their fans.

"If artists really work on their stuff and get in front of the public on a face-to-face basis, they'll have a fan for life," he said.

As far as he is concerned, record labels should be investing money in developing their musicians, rather than in lawyers.

"The labels have come up with so many artists to make them disposable; here today and gone tomorrow," he said.

"They have to look into not only artist development but fan development. That's what going to make a dollar and be a strong dollar."

Chuck D
Digital music shifting power away from the record labels
See also:

26 Feb 02 | New Media
Piracy blamed for CD sales slump
08 Feb 02 | New Media
Music industry's digital plans 'fail'
12 Mar 02 | New Media
Trouble ahead for music industry
01 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Music's digital future
18 Mar 02 | Sci/Tech
Discord over digital music
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