Thursday, December 14, 2000
In this tumultuous year in the music and Internet industries, it would be obvious to make the case that Napster was the top music-related site on the 'Net.
Napster was making headlines everywhere. However, the headlines came about, more often than not, because of the lawsuits over copyright infringements. Millions of new users became aware of Napster's existence. But with all the attention the company received in 2000, very little had to do with what it was doing online.
Here is a brief summary of Napster's beleaguered history:
ï¿½ 1999 ï¿½ Shawn Fanning, a 19-year-old student at Northeastern University in Boston launches Napster, his faster, easier way to download music from the Internet. The software is offered free on the Web.
The Recording Industry Association of America files a lawsuit against Napster Inc., saying its online music downloading service violates copyright infringement laws.
ï¿½ January-April 2000 ï¿½ Napster begins its boom, as thousands of new members sign on daily. Rapper Dr. Dre and Metallica sue Napster, which bans 335,000 members known to have downloaded their songs.
ï¿½ Summer 2000 ï¿½ Fanning releases his final version of Napster, including instant messaging functions.
ï¿½ June 2000 ï¿½ The recording industry asks for a preliminary injunction to shutdown Napster. Napster hires David Boies, the government's star attorney in the Microsoft antitrust case, to defend it in the lawsuits.
ï¿½ July 2000 ï¿½ Napster files its response to the recording industry's suit, saying federal laws give its users the right to swap copyrighted songs. U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on online music. The recording industry rejects Napster's position. Judge Patel grants a temporary injunction to the recording industry, effectively shutting down Napster at midnight Friday. However, Napster wins a reprieve.
ï¿½ Fall 2000 ï¿½ Major universities reject a request by lawyers for some music artists to halt the use of Napster. Napster announces a strategic alliance with Bertelsmann, a globally respected Media Company and owner of BMG music, and releases a version for the Mac.
ï¿½ December ï¿½ The saga continues.
An emerging empire
While Napster was on the defense, there was one site that was grinding out offensive yardage throughout the emerging Internet/music world.
The ARTISTdirect Network spent 2000 building an impressive, multifaceted Web empire that offers music news, music downloads and authorized music merchandise.
Chances are, if you've looked for information online about your favorite musician or band, you've been to one of the ARTISTdirect network sites. (The control center is www.artistdirect.com). If you plan to visit the site, plan on staying for a while. You'll find that you can read music news and concert information, get tickets, download music, watch music videos and shop for CDs, clothing and collectibles.
What distinguishes the ARTISTdirect Network from other Internet-music sites is that it is the one-stop shop for fans and musicians alike, bringing the two worlds together like never before. It offers a wealth of content unmatched on the Internet.
Another powerful part of the network is the Ultimate Band List, which is one of the most-visited Internet databases in existence. The site, which started in June 1994, boasts a stable of 108,000 bands and growing.
The vision for ARTISTdirect network came from CEO Marc Geiger, a former record label executive who turned his back on the traditional music industry in 1996 when, as co-founder of Lollapalooza music festival, he became disenchanted with the traditional way the industry worked.
What made Geiger jump from being a music label executive into the online world?
"In a word, opportunity," Geiger says during a recent interview. "I had a compelling sense that the Web was the place to be, where it was all going. I wanted to be ahead of the curve, not behind it."
Geiger's decision turned out to be a wise one. Today, ARTISTdirect network receives 3.5 million original hits each month ï¿½ not including the band pages that the network hosts. Although ARTISTdirect seems to be at the top of the game right now, Geiger envisions the next evolution to be a reversal of what music Web sites currently offer.
"We're a doughnut without the hole," he says.
Geiger feels that what's missing is a standard for downloading and distributing digital music. What fans are after, quite simply, is music. Geiger will deliver it to them through his Web sites.
The rest of the features on his sites, such as the news and merchandise, will be "frosting on the cake," he says.
What a wonderful and promising start for the Internet music world 2000 has been. Countless concerts and tours were sponsored by Web companies. Internet stocks made major music stars richer than they already were. Superstars offered fans the chance to not only download their music, but remix it and pick the songs that would appear on albums. And fans kept up with their idols in pictures, sound bytes and the latest news from the road.
All of them could be major players in the music/Internet world by this time next year ï¿½ that's just how fast the industry is changing.