You know what I need right about now? I need a sub par copy of Pink Floyd’s Learning to Fly. I need it to be poor quality… it should muck up my hard drive and above all, the service…you know the file sharing service? Well, it should make my computer vulnerable to all forms of computer viruses. Yeah, that’s exactly what I need right now. Oh yes, before I forget, I also want to be a defendant in a case brought against thousands of file sharing “outlaws” by one of the most powerful music industry associations, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Can I get that? Cool!
File sharing services like Napster, in its original outlaw, pre-Metallica tirade, pre-RIAA lawsuit, were all the rage in the heady days that capped off the last millennium. Peaking at a mind-numbing number of eight million users in July of 2000, file sharing services offered access to the hard drives of millions of member computers for the purpose of sharing music.
But it seems as if these services were given far more credibility by their detractors then they deserved. The music downloaded from these sights was audio slop and often incomplete. While the music was audible and sometimes even bearable, for the most part the sonic qualities were poor and no match for the actual purchased compact disc. Cycling 128 kbps, MP3s, like those available on file sharing services, match up well with MDs that cycle at 290 kbps and sound smaller but cleaner. But the comparison to CD is in fact no comparison at all, because while many have made the distinction between vinyl and “real” music and CD and “fake” music (an argument we are not going to get into), we’re still talking about a file so heavily compressed that its copy of a copy of a copy feel makes it not nearly worth the hassle.
So while the file sharing services did, in fact, serve a purpose — to help little known bands with little chance of getting radio play get a bit of much needed exposure — the flip side of that was the fact that obscure, better-left-dead artists were able to raise their ugly heads from the sea of ubiquitous has-been-ery that they were so rightly exiled to, to torture us again. Examples of which are far too numerous, and painful, to list. Ah screw it. Here goes:
1) Milli Vanilli. Which incidentally, as party music, holds the same campy quality as a gay porno at a bachelor party.
2) Abba. A whole generation of fat, unpopular teenage girls and boys want, check that, need a muffled version of “Dancing Queen” in order to make their muffled lives all the more bearable.
3) Christopher Cross. Note to those who have downloaded anything by Christopher Cross, including “Sailing,” in the last five years. It didn’t get you any women in 1979, ‘83 or ‘88. What would make it any different now?
So while the technology, idea, and process are ingenious, the reality is not quite up to snuff. Sort of like playing catch, but instead of a ball you use an 800-pound bronze statue. There is no question the statue is beautiful, what is in question, however, is whether or not you’re prepared to toss around an 800-pound bronze statue or whether or not you should. I would have to say no, and with that say that file sharing programs were in fact very, very overrated. Unless you’re a pudgy teenage boy or girl listening to “Dancing Queen” on your PC, in which case, all I got to say is: Good luck with all that.