Napster ignited the music industry revolution 15 years ago

Napster's people collage

15 years ago, Lars Ulrich of Metallica become the most hated man in the music industry for taking away Napster. This P2P music service, created in 1999 by Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, allowed people to get free music illegally by downloading MP3 files from other users’ computers.

Little did this couple of college freshmen know that what they had created back then would pave the way for a digital revolution of gigantic proportions with the rise of downloading services like iTunes and music streaming services. The important point though is that music fans did not want to pay for music 15 years ago, and not much has changed now.

Metallica VS Napster

Lars Ulrich in Court VS NapsterLars Ulrich of Metallica filed a lawsuit against Napster in April 2000. Metallica’s beef was that the music service was allowing their users to illegally share the artists’ music without being paid. “It is sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is,” said Metallica’s drummer. At this time Ulrich has been much criticised by music fans. He just didn’t get what was happening with the Internet and young users’ expectations or even the evolution of the way music was heading. Napster lost of course, because what they were doing was completely illegal, though they changed the music landscape forever with their genius little start-up which would be finished in two short years. These days Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and Sean Parker are more like frenemies. They are often seen at conferences together discussing how creativity and technology merged can drive growth for the future of music.

Music fans did not want to pay for music 15 years ago with Napster. Not much has changed now

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Napster paved the way for downloading and streaming

iPods and iTunesThe year 2001 literally saw the demise of Napster and the rise of iTunes. Then, Sean Parker has come a long way on his journey to re-inventing the music revival by dusting himself off from the shackles of the decline of Napster, becoming the first President of Facebook and he’s now on the board of the most dominant music streaming service, Spotify. With his insight, Sean Parker has helped the streaming service carves out its position in a rapidly evolving market that is still struggling to change the music landscape and how fans get access to music.

15 years later the battle between musicians, fans and music services still exists

With the steady decline of downloads and the plummet of CD sales, music streaming services dictate the way the public experience music. The irony here is that music artists now have a beef with the legal music services like Spotify especially because of concerns over their freemium offers. They don’t feel they are being rewarded fairly for their art, but music fans simply do not want to pay to listen to music. Heads on this issue will continue to butt forever more, unless a consistent approach to across all avenues of digital platforms comes to fruition. It’s perhaps telling that Sean Parker said back in 2011 that “what I’m trying to do with Spotify is finish what I started with Napster.”

Music industry and musicians have to innovate

There’s no doubt that people love music and while most consumers say they are not keen on ad supported music content, they would rather listen to an ad than have to pay for it. The days where artists relied on music sales to sustain their music career is definitely over. Traditional methods in which fans supported their favourite artists are long gone and iTunes recently reporting that song downloads will drop 39% in the next five years. The digital revolution is here and fans have been screaming for a seamless way to listen to music for the last fifteen years. So where to from here? For the fans they will reward artists with their loyalty by listening to music via streaming over and over. The battle against services like Spotify will rage on but if artists like Taylor Swift (who have a very strong fan base), do not tread lightly they could just find themselves with a mutiny on their hands, just as Metallica discovered fifteen years ago.

The days where artists relied on music sales to sustain their music career is definitely over. They have to innovate!

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This digital rebellion is a sign that times are changing and that concert tickets, endorsements and brand collaborations should be embraced as a way for successful artists to sustain a thriving music career, rather than just selling their music.

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This creates an enormous opportunity for brands to engage and reward their high value customers by offering a free music experience that gives them the music they want.

>> Look at our infographic about the Music streaming surge to benefit brands

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Category: Once Upon a Sound

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