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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 10:25 GMT
Is Napster right to charge users?
Napster's chief executive Hank Barry has confirmed that users will soon be charged a membership fee.
Mr Barry said that royalties are to be paid to artists whose material is swapped over the internet with the help of Napster software.
The music industry has felt threatened by the number of people downloading music from the net for free. Traditional sales of music have fallen as a result.
But is it right to start charging net music users now? How much would you pay to get your music?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Greg Fergadiotis, GREECE
This is very bad for the music industry.
Napster is the best way for me to get turned on to
new artists, and to hear more songs by artists I like.
If I like what I hear, I go out and buy the CD so that I
can hear the music in it's original high-fidelity recording
on my home stereo.
The Decision Hank Barry to levy a charge upon Napster users is perhaps a clever ploy to buy time for the existing Napster Members. He as an intelligent Computer user knows that as soon as a charge is levied he will lose upwards of 90% of his user base. An earlier comment above explains the existence of MP3 swapping before Napster and it will continue with or without it.
I agree with Al Priest. I've downloaded many mp3's from Napster with very few of them being of substantial quality. All too often the ends of songs were not there, 'blips' could be heard on some and others were of such poor quality they weren't even worth listening to. Given that the service is unreliable I certainly wouldn't pay for it, besides, if I liked any of the songs I went out and bought the album so, the groups actually do benefit from it.
Personally I wouldn't use Napster if they made it chargeable - but many people still would. It would be interesting to see if the cost of purchasing CD's would go down? I doubt it, only last week France announced that they were going to start putting a tax on blank CD's again to compensate the recording companies for loss of revenue.
No chance of me paying for Napster. It's the worst piece of software I've ever used.
Leo Spesshardt, Ireland
Considering the plight of upcoming artists, it's a difficult decision. An up-and-coming group may be able to reach larger amounts of people through Napster, but also will lose large amounts in royalties when people start downloading the MP3 instead of buying the single.
Also, with all the free music the 57 million users have already downloaded, I think it would be only fair to have them pay a reasonable fee. Look at everything they've already obtained for absolutely nothing!
Al Priest, England
The RIAA has stated that they are protecting the Artist, when in fact they have a proven track record of just the opposite. Exploiting artists for their own gain. This is not a matter of supporting the artist. Any money that we pay to Napster or similar services is not going back to the artist, its going back to the "Big 5" where the artist is typically one of the last people to reap any benefit or financial gain from an endeavour of this type.
Napster provides a facility to listen to music and make your own mind up whether you like it or not. If you do, you can buy. If not, you can delete it. Napster should not be closed down!
I will never buy a CD for $15.00 when I can download it for free and burn it for about twenty cents.
The recording industry's lawsuit wasn't about paying artists for their work. It was about they themselves getting paid for the artist's work. I firmly believe in paying musicians for their efforts. However, seeing as how the artist sees only a fraction of a penny for each album sold, I will never buy another one again. Napster want to charge? Fine. I'll pay if over 50% of the fees go to the artists I listen to. Otherwise, I'll use opennap.
B Maguire, UK
Some of us have been gathering MP3 tracks for free across the internet long before Napster came along. Napster made this process convenient and usable for the barely computer literate. This is the beauty of Napster. The cat's out of the bag and from this point forward some of us will always be downloading music for free but it would be a shame (and an injustice) to exclude these individuals from the process.
If they are going to start charging for downloads of music from Napster then I think there need to be a big shake down, either in Napster or on another site.
It should be split into three different areas.
1) Area that allows new budding artist to upload their music which we can download for free.
2) Area for back catalogue music that hardly costs any money at all to download.
3) Area that allows you to download the latest chart music, which can first listen to in Radio quality (as we all can hear this music for free on the radio), then you can have an option to download a high quality version for a price (£1-£2).
There are many alternatives already. FTP works great thanks, on the basis of if I upload one of my mp3's to you, I can have 5 back. It rapidly increases everyone's music library and it's free. Napster isn't the be all and end all. The cost of CD's is though.
Dave Russell, UK
I do not think Napster should charge users. It is just fine how it is - music downloaded from the Napster was after all just free publicity for artists. You get to know there music and go out to buy more for your collection anyway.
People act as if record companies have been around since the dawn of civilization, and that without them, music would cease to exist. We all know that record companies are a 20th century institution, and that music was around long before they showed up on the scene.
I believe that if record companies and their employees were to vanish off the face of the earth tomorrow, musicians will still continue on.
Jon Dark, UK
The web allows musicians to bypass record companies. This will cut their profits hard
Like radio, Napster should pay royalties, but through advertising, not through user fees. It can be a two-way street. Bands and record companies can upload their 'product' to a service like Napster, where they get free access to listeners who want to sample their songs. They in return, offer the music to the MP3 server for a very low fee which can be easily covered through moderate advertising. This way, everyone wins.
Nothing is free. If Napster wants to charge
for access, it's their right.
It's also the right of musicians to sue
Napster for a percentage.
Napster might have to charge a fee, but this will dramatically cut down the number of users. What the record companies fail to realise is that they may close Napster, but there will always be places to download the music for free.
Wayne McDonough, UK
I just don't think that Napster keeps its users away from CD stores. Most people only use it to get funny or rare songs, it's too expensive to make records out from the net, as well as making records from radio, and people know it.
Even though I shall pay to keep on using it, knowing that my money go to big 'bloodsucking' recording companies for a stupid reason drives me mad.
If something is that valuable to you, you'll pay whatever it cost to obtain it. That goes for both the Artist and the consumer. Why would I, as a music lover, demand that Artist's work for free? If I enjoy it I should pay you for it. Or is that too simple?
I don't think Napster should charge. The music people are getting there share of the money. Someone goes out and buy the cds at ridiculous prices - so those people are getting there money. We are the ones who keep them in business. You would think they would give us some slack!
Andy Millward, UK
David Glover, UK
I cannot believe the cloud cuckoo land comments here. It is not just an artist who makes music, there are engineers, session musicians, writers etc. all who would like to be paid for their work and without whom there would be no music. Also take into account all the bands that fail which still have to be paid for. Sure CD's etc are too expensive but even if they did come down to US prices then it is certainly not the case that people would then be willing to pay as the largest number of people using Napster et al are living in the USA.
Speaking as one of the "56k" masses, myself and my friends use Napster to download individual tracks rather than whole albums. Wherever possible, if we find a good track, we will go out and buy the album (if it is still in print). That said, if the membership charge is not too high (£10-£20) then I wouldn`t mind paying it.
Although the Napster software is very good at what it does, people have been using it for quite some time for free and it will be very hard for Napster to extract money from the user-base. The main reason people use the software is because its so easy to get the tunes you like on the spur of the moment impulse listening and the fact that they didn't have to pay to get it in the first place. Say they do start charging, the userbase will go drastically down which in turn means less tunes available which in turn means the paying punters will not get the service that they have been used to
Steven Lockton, UK
Jamie Crick, Ireland
Oh dear big business doesn't have a clue, does it? People pirate music because it is too expensive. Give us similar or cheaper prices than America and watch the piracy trickle away.
If net music is charged, people will start to 'burn' cd's. That would be a lot worse for the industry than downloading a song or two for free on the net.
Daniel Bouhs, Germany
I don't feel that it is right to charge people for downloading music, its just ripping people off that way. And in regards to the traditional sales going down, if someone would take a notice the only bands that are complaining are the ones that aren't doing that well in the first place, it has nothing to do with Napster... no one wants their music at all...
Musicians and record labels deserve to get their fair (note the word fair) share of royalties and profit from their product. For too long a lot of fat cat execs have been creaming the money off the industry for too long. Any current deals will just be to maintain some form of status quo (as in old dying rock dinosaurs just like the band) for this small group who have continually strangled money out of the industry (the inheritors from the days when the mob controlled the industry). It would be best to legislate to control them and their powers and to free the artists and music professionals from the accountants and lawyers who kill the industry.
Chris Cormier, Canada
Well, in the long run many artists will not be able to make a living if they don't get paid for their efforts. As a result, I think they should be paid. Napster's continued popularity will be determined on the fees set. The law of diminishing returns will surely apply. The higher the charges, the less money will be made, as users will switch to other available services like Gnutela. Everyone is willing to pay a small fee, and if there are 57 million current users, even a fee on one penny per song will create a fortune. The question that exists now is "How greedy will the record executives be?"
The music industry has always been a money spinner, never more so than in previous years where we have seen an explosion of talent less manufactured pre-pubescent teenagers onto the music scene. This presumably has come about because of the lucrative nature of mainstream music sales. If sales have dipped in recent years due to the popularity of downloading music from the net this may explain the disappointing performance of recently released albums from the Spice Girls, A1 and Billie Piper. In which case I can only protest that implementing a membership fee is a very bad idea!
Chris Brown, England
I'm happy to pay for music if the money goes to the artists. But I greatly resent funding a notoriously filthy record industry making huge profits from rip-off CDs. It's no surprise that Napster has been such an astounding success story so far, and a small fee, supporting artists, would be fine in principle. But will people just use an alternative service, which are already becoming available?
29 Jan 01 | Business
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